“Après la Guerre Finale” (E19)

  • Originally printed: The New Yorker, February 23, 1935
  • First reprinted in: Never reprinted
  • Original Byline: Guy Fawkes


Guy Fawkes expresses concern for the media veterans whose wild experiences covering the “Trial of the Century” are bound to leave them dissatisfied with the ordinary tragedies to come. The author anticipates the emergence of a new “Lost Generation” in the aftermath of Bruno Hauptmann’s death sentence, as the city’s reporters, whose January and February copy had been inflated by previously untapped psychical insights into the malign consciousness of “The Most Hated Man in America”, are forced to refocus their speculative apparatuses on the mundane tales of neighborly animus and political inertia which are a daily paper’s common fare. RB likens this cohort’s easily observable sense of unfounded omnipotence to the kind of temporary elation described by non-career officers tossed into the trenches of the Great War, where their every panicked command carried unaccustomed consequence.

Making no bones of his disgust with the entire affair, from the tone of its reportage to its morbidly salutary effect on “kidnap ladder” sales, Fawkes scrupulously avoids all mention of the Lindberghs. He was the only person laying off that soon-to-be-tarnished name during the winter of 1935. In his hierarchy of journalistic culprits, RB singles out The Evening Journal as the furthest gone offender (alas, that organ doesn’t appear to be archived anywhere within my reach), while the The New York Times appears to have steered clear of the worst excesses (presumably because no “reds” were involved in the case). The modern reader can only imagine what Guy Fawkes would have made of the OJ Simpson frenzy sixty years later.

Favourite Moment:
You can’t blame a writer for taking his head when it is given him, even if it isn’t much of a head.”

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