The Most Hotly Debated Rebels...

Colin Wilson on some grass reading a book

A short text with two quotes slagging off "angry young man" Colin Wilson from Internationale Situationniste #6 (August 1961).

Submitted by Fozzie on January 31, 2023

The most hotly rebels are also the most willingly spectacular, "the rebels we love to hate." And they're just about useless. After three or four years of all this, you'd have to be pretty dishonest to act as if the evidence of their conformity disappointed you, especially if you'd been smart enough never to have presented them to the public as genuine innovators. Once again, the dominant culture toys with its central contradiction: its simultaneous need for and terror of the novelty that is its death.

The reckless youth of these furious Englishmen was short-lived. . . . The "angry young men" movement rattled the window-panes of the bourgeoisie and filled hearts with hope. It was going to achieve something. Osborne has made it — and he's already settling in. Around 1956-57, word began to spread about these young writers who loudly proclaimed their refusal of every conformity, protesting against the inhuman living conditions forced upon modern man. . . . The group, however, was disparate, the common denominator "angry young men" corresponding more to a journalistic tendency than to a common program. . . . It certainly wasn't sufficient: today, the group no longer seems to have any significance, nor even an existence. The individual talents have extricated themselves from it. . . . Colin Wilson, the self-taught simpleton, has lapsed into a hazy mysticism, and so on. But they've been perfectly integrated into the literary society of their country.
— R. Kanters, L'Express (13 July 1961)

The rotten egg smell exuded by the idea of God envelops the mystical cretins of America’s “Beat Generation” and is not even entirely absent from the declarations of the Angry Young Men (e.g. Colin Wilson). These latter have just discovered, thirty years behind the times, a certain moral subversiveness that England had managed to completely hide from them all this time; and they think they’re being daringly scandalous by declaring themselves antimonarchists. . . . The Angry Young Men are in fact particularly reactionary in attributing a privileged, redemptive value to the practice of literature, thereby defending a mystification that was denounced in Europe around 1920 and whose survival today is of greater counterrevolutionary significance than that of the British Crown.
— Editorial Note,
Internationale Situationniste #1 (June 1958)

Translated by Reuben Keehan. From