Thanks to coronavirus — and I mean no thanks to coronavirus — we look like finding ourselves succeeded by a new lost generation. Succeeded was perhaps a poor choice of word under the circumstances.
The most famous Lost Generation comprised a group of expatriates living in Paris in the 1920s, who were ‘heavily vulnerable’ to the Spanish flu pandemic, which was ‘unusually deadly.’ And before we start shrugging, less than impressed, its worldwide death toll was estimated at 55 million. Feel free to look horrified now.
When a French mechanic failed to repair Gertrude Stein’s car in time for her to collect it, the garage owner shouted at him, “You are typical of a lost generation.” Et voilà! The name stuck, like her brake pedal, apparently.
It might transpire that our present generation of young people have restricted horizons in the wake of our troubled times. As if some young people aren’t troubled enough. Real life to them at the moment isn’t what real life was to their parents’ peer group.
Their schooling has been a sputtering spasmodic affair, their social life has been constrained by social distancing, higher education has sported its oak in their faces, masks have hidden many adult faces from them, and they must wonder at times (like Alfie) what it’s all about. And why they don’t require vaccination.
In the novel and film Lost Horizon, entering the valley of Shangri-La slows down the ageing process, but if you leave again, you age quickly and die. The novel ends with us wondering if the main character will make his way back in time to find his lost girlfriend. (Before he starts to resemble her grandfather, presumably.) The film was made with 3 different endings and in the final one they all live happily ever after. No surprise there, Mr Capra.
Will our kids regain what now seems like paradise lost? Will they have enough time left to make up for lost time? As time passes, it has become a worrying arithmetical conundrum, a vexed and vexing question. Perhaps we can take some comfort from the fact that the last surviving member of the Lost Generation didn’t die until 2018 (so he wasn’t entirely lost.)
Mentioning paradise regained reminds me how Milton’s epic poem of that name was advertised in America: “Read All About It! Paradise Regained! Satan Defeated!” The reviewer certainly didn’t waste much time writing that. Perhaps he was a member of the Lost for Words Generation.