Sigmund Freud by Andy Warhol
Auden’s book The Age of Anxiety opens with an unforgettable (indimenticabile) evocation of the horrors of war. The First World War with its mass slaughter (massacre), and — even more — the Second World War, which with concentration camps and Hiroshima surpassed the old atrocities, were events that left (lasciarono) an indelible mark (segno indelebile) on the consciousness of modern man. This trauma, which belongs to the collective conscience (coscienza collettiva) of all 20th century men and women, emerges — sometimes directly, at other times indirectly — in all the artists of the age of anxiety.
Although helpful (sebbeve di aiuto) in its therapeutic applications, psychoanalysis is another of the traumas underlying the new anxiety. Freud’s investigations into the unconscious helped man know his soul better, but at the same time shook (scossero) some of his fundamental certainties (certezze) , such as the control of reason over the irrational, the clear cut distinction between the sane (malato9 and the insane, the sacredness (santità) of family relationships. Ideological beliefs have similarly been shaken in this century as never before. In Arnold Wesker’s play Chicken Soup with Barley(1958), Ronnie Kahn, a young Communist shocked by what has just happened in Hungary where — in the Autumn of 1956 — the Soviets brutally suppressed a popular revolt, killing other Communists, says to his mother Sarahs: ”Take me by the hand and show me who was right and who was wrong”.
Ronnie’s bewilderment (disagio) typifies (esemplifica) the confusion of the individual in the face of the new, unprecedented ideological instability of the 20th century. As far as the Left is concerned, “Ronnie’s shock” — which came just a few months after the disclosure (scoperta) of Stalin’s crimes at the 20th Soviet Congress — was to be repeated over and over again (si sarebbe ripetuta più volte) in the course of the century: in the 1960’s, with the outbreak (scoppio) of hostilities between Red China and the Soviet Union; in 1968, with the Soviet invasion of the satellite state of Czechoslovackia; after the end of the Vietnam War (1975), with the tensions between the newly born Socialist State of Vietnam and its former friend Red China; and so on.
To this state of general ideological uncertainty — which of course applies to the Right as well as to the Left — should be added, in the case of Britain, the sense of loss(perdita) and frustration at its decline as a world power, plus guilt (più il senso di colpa) over its Imperial past.