The Twenty SS20 Issue

Great Minds Come Together

By Laura Gerhaeusser

This article was written by both Laura Gerhaeusser and Zélie Vandermeiren

Again and again, literary groups and movements all around the world have proven, that great things can be achieved, when like-minded people come together, exchange and discuss ideas, in order to create something radical and refreshing, when great minds come together art is born. What starts as a surface idea becomes an everlasting literature movement

Thoughts, theses, storylines, themes bubbling underneath the surface in order to be explored and questioned over and over again. And then, when released – Boom. Something beautiful is born. See below our list of one-of-a-kind literary groups, that went on to make history collectively within the wonderful world of books.

Bloomsbury Group
by Unknown photographer, vintage snapshot print, July 1915. Left to right: Lady Ottoline Morrell; Maria Huxley; Lytton Strachey; Duncan Grant; Vanessa Bell

“A largely imaginary group of persons with largely imaginary objects and characteristics” – this is how Leonard Woolf described the Bloomsbury Group, which he was a founding member of.

This coterie was made up of mixed intellectuals ( writers, artists, and philosophers), who shared the same ideas and beliefs. Some of the members included Leonard Woolf, his wife Virginia Woolf, Clive and Vanessa Bell, E.M. Forster, and Duncan Grant.

Almost all of the members went to either Cambridge University or Trinity College, where they joined societies and clubs. After moving to London, the two cliques came together. They met up, lived, loved, and worked inside a house located in London’s Bloomsbury district between 1907-1930.

Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf, 1902.

With their work, they shaped the Modernist Era, which sought to break traditions and come up with new philosophies. Among other topics, they discussed revolutionary new standpoints on pacifism, feminism and sexuality, though they weren’t chasing a specific goal – it was more of a ping pong play of thoughts between the members.

An infamous detail about the group is their practice of polyamory among the members, which was part of them challenging traditional morals and ways of living.

Some of the individual literary work, that came about within this collective and are brilliant testaments to the Modernist movement: Mrs Dalloway (1925) and To The Lighthouse (1927) by Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria (1921), Howards’ End (1910) by E.M. Forster.

South Side Writers' Group, literary groups
South Sides’ Writers Group

Chicago in the 1930s: a city defined by migration and the consequences of the Great Depression. The African American population in Illinois’ capital rose from 44,000 to 230,ooo between 1910 and 1930.

Residents resided in a segregated area in the southern part of the city, that came to be known as “The Black Belt”. The everyday lives of the people living there were mostly troubled including stories shaped by racism against the community. History has often shown: when misery takes over, creativity will spark.

This is exactly what happened here. The need for self-expression in these areas grew stronger and saw the rise and popularity of jazz, blues, and gospel music.

In literature, one team defined this era, known as the Chicago Black Renaissance: the South Side’s Writer Group. It consisted of about 20 writers, including Richard Wright, Margaret Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Arna Bontemps, Fenton Johnson and Lorraine Hansberry.

The groups’ desire was to explore and champion writing about Chicago’s culture, racial injustice, issues of identity and searching for meaning. By inspiring and challenging each other, countless important novels, essays and other forms of literature saw the light of day. Because of the prominent racism, these writers had countless difficulties in order to get published. Fortunately, they found heavy support from local newspapers, that functioned as a platform to share their stories and find like-minded people.

Books and plays, that would become important milestones included Native Son (1940) by Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks’ A Street In Bronzeville (1945) and Black Metropolis (1945) by St Clair Drake and Horace Cayton.

These and many more novels, poetry and other works had a monumental impact on how artists and writers incorporated their lives with their personal struggles and over comings into their work.

Sylvia BEach, literary groups
Sylvia Beach.

Take a walk in 12 rue de l’Odéon in Paris and you’ll see a pretty but nondescript building. From 1919 until 1941, this house accommodated a legendary bookstore: Shakespeare And Company.

Sylvia Beach opened this store as one of the first English-speaking bookstores in the French capital. Because of the big wave of Anglophone writers arriving in Paris during the 1920s, the bookstore was a crucial meeting point for migrating American creatives.

Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, T S Eliot, Gertrude Stein – just to name a few. The shop was a home away from home, a place where, both aspiring and successful authors came to dwell, create and exchange. It also was an important place, where English and American writers met and liaised with French authors.

Writers of Shakespeare and Company called themselves The Lost Generation – a “disoriented” and disenchanted group of ex-war survivors.

James Joyce, who used the bookstore as his office jokingly called it Stratford-on-Odeon. A breakthrough for the writers, as well as Sylvia Beach who was the first publisher of James Joyce’s book Ulysses (1922). Because it was seen as too obscene, it was soon banned in the UK and the US. She also took Hemingway under her wings and published his first book Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923).

Shakespeare and Company, literary groups
The Second Shakespeare & Company, opened in 1951.

In 1941, the bookstore was forced to close, as the Nazis occupied Paris. Ten years later, it was reopened at a new location, close to the Notre Dame cathedral. This store, that is still open today, was home for yet another generation of young and daring authors: the Beat movement under Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Next time you’re in Paris – please don’t miss this magical site! Find out more about this incredible place here.

  « Art for Art’s sake » was the slogan for El Grupo de Florida (Florida Group), created in the 1920’s in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Composed of writers, poets and painters, the group used to meet at La Confitería Richmond. This tea room was their HQ, where they would create together. The name of the group came from the tea room, which was located on Florida Street. 

As their slogan indicated, the purpose of the group, was to do “art for art’s sake”. By way of comparison, other groups emerged at the same time in Argentina, whose aim was to make politicized art. 

This group lasted for more than 10 years. It included artists such as Jorge Luis Borges, Antonio Berni, Norah Borges, Leopoldo Marechal and many more. During its existence, the Florida Group, shared its art and also created a magazine called Martín Fierro lasting for 3 years. Major works such as Investigaciones by Jorge Luis Borges, Los días como flechas, by Leopoldo Marechal or Don Segundo Sombra by Ricardo Guiraldes, were published in the magazine. They had an impact on South American literature and introduced the idea that you could simply make art, as their slogan was implying.

Jorge Luis Borges in 1921
Jorge Luis Borges in 1921

However, it had to come to an abrupt end in September 1930, following the coup d’État led by Jose Felix Uriburu. The existence of the group was then no longer possible, as Argentina was facing the “infamous decade”, where freedom of speech was not allowed.

  

We’re heading to New York for our next group. Here again, the name of the place where the artists used to meet, became the name of the group. The Factory.

A studio owned by Andy Warhol, which has opened its doors to many artists. Named ‘Warhol Superstars’, the group counted the now legends, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and even Salvador Dali.

Warhol wanted to create a place where New York’s artists could come and create together while having all the necessary equipment on site. The factory included projection rooms, workshops, exhibition galleries, and clubs. This in take, was set to help as many people possible discover artists and their works of art while creating a community.

Andy Warhol looking at Thomas Dellert banana split, 1980 by Bruno Ehrs
Andy Warhol looking at Thomas Dellert banana split, 1980 by Bruno Ehrs

From the sixties to the eighties, the Factory had an impact shaping pop culture. From photography to music or even cinema, the artists who put creativity at the forefront of the Factory were sure to make their contribution to pop culture.

For example, the famous album cover of the Velvet Underground and Nico, with the banana on it was made by Andy Warhol at the Factory, because the group used to compose here. The Chelsea Girls (1966), Women in Revolt (1971) or even Lonesome Cowboy (1968) were movies that were mainly made and produced with people from and at the Factory.

  

In 1979, China saw the birth of a poets group called, the Misty Poets. Among them we can count Bei Dao, Yang Lian, Mang Ke or even Fei Ye.

Fei Ye in his youth
Fei Ye in his youth

The name of the group came from their art, which at the time was described as misty. The realistic register and theme chosen by the artists was unusually dark for the time in China.

The group was born in a particular period in the artistic history of China. This was just after an end to the 10-year cultural revolution. This period with many restrictions in place included a suppressed world for freedom of expression. In response to this period, social and cultural revolutions started.

The impact the group had on Chinese culture was huge at the time for two main reasons. They were among the artists who published works just after the Cultural Revolution. Because of this, their work had a completely different dimension as a result of artists not being able to create during this period.The importance of this art, which is again allowed to be free and uncensored by the state, is enormous. So that’s one of the reasons for the Misty Group’s impact. They were among the first artists who created following the end of the cultural revolution. Misty Group played an important role to Chinese art and their fellow countrymen.

Then their realistic register and the themes approached under an obscure and dark angle, was also a novelty. No one before had ever written with this register and these themes. The angle adopted by the group was unprecedented, no one else had combined the dark and realistic genre, achieving national fame. The group had a real impact on the realist movement in China thanks to their poetry.

The answer, The boundary or the group of poems, The soul of rite, are the best-known works by the Misty Poets which in turn helped them gain major recognition.

  

Like Chinese artists, Russians also faced state censorship. While some writers decided to stay in Russia, and to write under the censorship, others decided to go into artistic exiles.

This is why, in the period between the two wars, France saw a wave of Russian immigrant writers, called the Émigrés, appearing in the capital. The country facing the aftermath of war and fear of another, welcomed this wave of Russian immigration with open arms.

The author, Gaïto Gazdanov in Paris, 1920's
Gaïto Gazdanov in Paris, 1920’s

From the 1920s to the 1930s, Russian writers migrated to France, sharing the majority of either fiction or war stories.

No literature movement was created from them, but the writers had an impact on French and Russian culture. Each in a different way, being the emigrant’s writers for one, and the immigrant’s writers for the other. An Evening with Claire from Gaïto Gazdanov, Eternal Spring Ivan Bunin , An Adventure Novel Nadezhda Teffi, were works that left their marks on the movement and culture.

  

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