Kafka was the Rage

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kafka was the Rage
A Greenwich Village Memoir
by Anatole Broyard

After World War II, Greenwich Village became the center of the bohemian revolution in America. Artistic twenty-somethings flocked to the New York neighborhood in droves. It drew them in the same way Paris had drawn their predecessors in the 1920s.

Broyard returned from serving in the war to find that the country had changed in his absence. He, like so many others, made his way to Greenwich, where he pursued his dream of opening a bookstore.

“Looking back at the late 1940s, it seems to me now that Americans were confronting their loneliness for the first time. Loneliness was like the morning after the war, like a great hangover. The war had broken the rhythm of American life, and when we tried to pick it up again, we couldn’t find it – it wasn’t there.”

The sense of loneliness the author speaks about is palpable in this book. He explores his odd relationship with a self-involved woman that seems to leave him feeling more alone when he’s with her than when he isn’t.

I liked a few passages from this memoir more than I liked it as a whole. It gave me a better picture of the history of Greenwich Village and I’m glad I read it before spending more time in the area, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a general read.

“To open a bookshop is one of the persistent romances, like living off the land or sailing around the world.”

“Books were our weather, our environment, our clothing. We didn’t simply read books; we became them. We took them into ourselves and made them into our histories. Books were to us what drugs were to young men in the sixties.”

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