The Irreducible Datum
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy
Never such innocence,
Never before or since. 1 ((MCMXIV Philip Larkin.))
I started off with nothing and still have most of it left. 2 ((This is a title by blues singer, Seasick Steve.))
Call it the Original Sin, or the primal scene of the century, ‘[t]he traumatic upheavals unleashed during the course of this four-year-long conflict (WW1) called into question the moral and intellectual premises of Western culture and civilisation. For many, the war served as the ultimate symbol of moral exhaustion and Western decline’ (Furedi 2018). The outworkings of this demoralisation and decline will be traced out below under the twin headings of guilt and the (Lacanian) celebration of desire.
In August 1914, Kafka began writing The Trial, the same month that the Great War started. According to George Steiner, ‘Kafka prophesied the actual forms of the disaster of Western humanism which Nietzsche and Kierkegaard had seen like an uncertain