Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The dispirit of 1968.

Last week, it was David Mamet's essay in the Village Voice: Why I am no longer a 'brain-dead liberal'. Now, in the Times of London, Tom Stoppard writes about the lonely position of being a non-leftist playwright during the 1968 student unrest in England:
In 1968 I was living the good life with my first wife and first baby in our first house on the swell of my first play and was beginning to be noted by my peers as someone who was politically dubious.

It was to be some years before a well known left-wing director, asked to typify a “Royal Court play”, replied that it was a play not written by Tom Stoppard, but I was already conscious of a feeling in myself which detached me from the prevailing spirit of rebellion when bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young was to be where it’s at.

The feeling I refer to was embarrassment. I was embarrassed by the slogans and postures of rebellion in a society which, in London as in Paris, had moved on since Wordsworth was young and which seemed to me to be the least worst system into which one might have been born – the open liberal democracy whose very essence was the toleration of dissent.
Excellent counterpoint to all the '68 nostalgia flooding the press for the 40th anniversary.

Stoppard went on to premiere his play Rock'n'Roll, which is in part about the spirit of 1968 - in Prague, not London - at the Royal Court, as part of its 50th anniversary season. So Bill Gaskill - the left-wing director Stoppard references - was wrong.

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