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Malcolm Bradbury – Why they are bourgeois

December 17, 2014

‘… I can’t see what’s wrong with a bit of separateness and withdrawal from the fray.’ ‘No?’ asked Howard. ‘That’s because you’re bourgeois now, Henry. You have the spirit of a bourgeois.’ ‘No, I don’t,’ said Henry, ‘that’s nasty. I’m trying to give my life a little dignity without robbing anyone else of theirs. I’m trying to define an intelligent, liveable, unharming culture, Howard.’ ‘Oh, Christ,’ said Howard, ‘evasive quietism.’ ‘You know, Henry, I’m sorry,’ said Barbara, ‘but if I lived like you, I’d die first.’ ‘Bourgeois, bourgeois,’ said Howard the next day as, their things packed, the baby in the back of the van, they drove off from the farmhouse after an uncomfortable parting. ‘Well,’ said Barbara, trying to be kind to the kind, the people who had saved her when she was wandering loose with a television set, ‘don’t forget, they haven’t had all our disadvantages.’

(from The History Man [1975])

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