My textbook, Moments Littéraires: An Anthology for Intermediate French sums up our day and age expertly. Here is a translation of some of the things it says about the literary time we’re living in:
“At the dawn of the 21st century, some spoke of the “Era of inner emptiness;” others saw a new humanism in globalization.
In the 40’s, facing the horror of the Second World War, existentialism emerged and proposed to fight against the absurdity of life in confronting reality without hope and without absolutes. Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre concentrated on existence, or the reality of the present, to find an identity in the middle of “nothingness.”
In other areas, like the theatre of Jean Anouillh, the dramatic language and structure were more traditional, but the same anxiety about living appeared.
In the 60’s, the anxiety transformed into a moral crisis…Marguerite Duras saw in the novel not a way of transforming a message, but a veritable writing laboratory, a place of narrative and linguistic experimentation where the reader becomes an interpreter and creator.
The period of 1970 to today is known as “The Postmodern Era.” Sociologists speak of “triumphant individualism,” “sexual liberation” with the disappearance of all taboos.
Man is no longer thought of as a divine creature, but rather God appears as a creature of man. The “I think therefore I am” of Descartes has been replaced by “I consume therefore I am.”
After the Nouveau Roman, postmodern writers abandoned the question of literary theories to make themselves attentive and tormented witnesses of social reality… Literary homogeneity made way for heterogeneity of genres, styles, and cultures. Eclecticism is king.
As Le Clézio said, today’s writer seeks to express “before all formal speculation, the adventure of being alive.”