THE YEAR OF THE BARRICADES: A Journey Through 1968 by David Caute

THE YEAR OF THE BARRICADES: A Journey Through 1968

Email this review


The years 1967 and 1968 were the high-water marks of the 60's; thus a recent spate of 20th-anniversary books. British journalist Caute's is a little like the era: passionate, busy, and somewhat strident. Caute (Under The Skin, 1983; The Great Fear, 1977) is very good at marshalling his forces and moving quickly and intelligently from way-station to way-station in 1968. We get vivid descriptions of the Tet Offensive, the occupations of Columbia and the Sorbonne, the invasion of Prague, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, etc. While giving a nod to black revolutionaries and feminists, the book is mainly about the student leaders who helped foment the rebellion. ""What were they--courageous visionaries or romantic utopians? Genuine revolutionaries or posturing spoiled brats?"" Well, a little of all of the above. Caute is at his best describing the Tom Haydens and Mark Rudds in their heyday (Rudd is depicted by a Columbia prof as ""a tall, hulking, slackfaced young man with a prognathic jaw""). In the end, he decides that the spirit of 1968 is not completely moribund in the 80's--there is still idealism among the young, and many flower children have gone on to good works--but, in the main, ""white males, middle-aged or elderly, still hold the levers of political and corporate power"" and the ""constant cultural neutering of dissent, the eclecticism which treats all ideas as short. lived merchandise,"" has pretty much buried the Movement and its goals. Caute has bitten off far too much for one book, and thus certain areas, particularly cultural ones, are treated somewhat hastily. His own opinions are also quite close to the surface (LBJ was a ""murderer"") and often seem simplistic. But this is nonetheless a provocative tour of a fascinating time.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row