There’s a little game that I like to play, and I bet you’ve played it yourself, where people answer the question: If you could live in any time period what would it be and why? Of course, being the irritatingly anal person that I am I ask: If you could live in any section of society in any time period (assuming that you will be a healthy individual who will not succumb to the local illnesses such as, for example, the Bubonic Plague if you are in Europe in the 14th century) who would you be? If you are playing with thoughtful and intelligent people this can provide you with hours of fun (alright, maybe I spend too much time with History majors).
Since I know that you are all curious about what my answer to this would be, here it is:
I would quite like living as myself in England at anytime during the Interwar period (1918-1939). Theoretically I would prefer to be eighteen years old just at the end of WWI, just able to avoid the draft but be old enough to enjoy life on my own, and I would enjoy becoming involved with the Bloomsbury Group (I suppose it goes without saying that I would need to be, at the very least, upper-middle class). The Interwar period, or the much more elegant Interbellum, has always held my fascination. Great Britain, and Europe, have just come out of one of the most shocking events in living memory: a slaughter held not even in their backyard but in their own house. The trauma of this shook the Victorian-Edwardian sensibilities of Great Britain’s society and helped to launch new schools of thought that began to reshape their world. This was the era of the Woolfs, Kafka, new philosophies, a changing world.
In my head I see myself taking tea with brilliant artists, locking myself away in a cottage to finish my most recent piece of writing, indulging my “artistic temperament”. There would be poetry readings, writing blistering literary reviews, gay dinners. (I would of course use this time period to become intimately acquainted with Quentin Crisp, Coco Chanel, Virginia Woolf, JRR Tolkien, among others.)
I do recognize that this time is not just the foundation of a brave new world but was also marked by racism, antisemitism, classism, along with a plague of other issues. The fact that as a white male I would have substantial societal privileges can not be denied (although my pansexuality, disregard for gender norms and Hebrew heritage would be factored into this I would still end up in a very cozy spot in the hierarchy). But isn’t this true at anytime? I mean, we still have a white male privilege system in effect today. This was also a time where some of these norms were being challenged (look at the Woolfs or Lytton Strachey or a variety of others) and I like to think that I would be directly involved.
And so, as the snow finally settles onto our little mountain, I dream of a past world. Tweeds. Walking through the halls and cobble streets of venerable Oxford. Striding across country fields. Crammed omnibuses. Rich voices over the wireless. Cold rooms where the fireplace can not reach. Music that swung. Discussing Homer and Plutarch and Montaigne in country homes as winter piles up outside.