Intimations of Hedonia

Writes Rick Rozoff:

From a 1962 novel by Belgian writer Marcel Moreau. The French title is Quintes; the English translation by Bernard Frechtman was published as The Selves of Quinte.

The author’s anticipation of contemporary guiltless, and joyless, Hedonia is one in which the protagonist is assailed by “photos of naked women in a reign of feathers, heavy odors, neon lights, gaping and legitimately daring clothes, raucous music, and rouged cigarette butts in pretty garbage cans, mackled papers, rattles, papers with unfinished diagrams, an effervescent peace, prisons opened, the ex-convicts stepped into golden carriages that drove through a holiday-making city, there were no more culprits, the very notion of guilt had been eliminated, and by virtue of the fact that there was no more evil, people ran, they ran to a great, to an immense innocenting….”

Quinte, “mad with joy,” had evoked within him “a plausible notion of men’s productivity,” one in which “they had produced more and more, never had so much been produced joyously and silkily as today, and the producers flooded men with their silky and joyous products, there were things everywhere, and among men, like easy cement, happy things straight out of happiness factories filled the streets, people’s eyes, everyone stopped to read, to listen, to look at the big rounded redundant, booming kinds of happiness, but there were also veiled, oblique kinds of happiness that tried by paleness or insinuation to be more concrete than the others. And everybody went off with treasures of hazy satiety, going from the shower of appeasement to the prospect of orgasms.”

Over a century before Moreau wrote his novel, the Russian philosopher, music critic and writer Vladimir Odoevsky communicated analogous intimations of a a society based on prosperity without principles, of material wealth and spiritual stultification, in one of the tales included in his volume Russian Nights, entitled The Fifth Night: A City Without Name.

That experiment culminated in this:

No one wanted to do anything for the future. All feelings, all thoughts, all man’s incentive were limited to the present moment….The divine, inspiring language of poetry was inaccessible….Great phenomena of nature did not plunge [the inhabitant of this new dispensation] into lighthearted thought which diverts man from earthly sorrow. Mothers knew no songs they could sing at their babies’ cradles.