Was the literature of the 50's in some sense enhanced by the politically conservative climate?
Some people do their best work under the most adverse conditions. Norman Mailer recently talked about the 50's as a steady drip on the brain. That irritation can create the pearl in the oyster. Some of the best work of writers, intellectuals and filmmakers of the time was in reaction to social conformity and the limited range of political debate. Films like ''Rebel Without a Cause'' reacted against the home and family ethos of the 1950's. In that respect, the oppressive atmosphere of the 50's did not make writers happy, but it was good for their work.
In your view, postwar writers abandoned overtly political and ideological themes after World War II to turn inward. What caused that?
The war revealed terrible things about human nature. Remember, it ended with the opening of the death camps and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Few writers dealt with those things directly because they couldn't really encompass...