chapter  11
14 Pages

Sounds from the Life of the Future: Making Sense of U.S. Radio Broadcasting in France, 1921–1939

WithDerek W. Vaillant

In 1930 the award-winning French novelist and critic, Georges Duhamel condemned America’s seemingly insatiable appetite for consumer goods and entertainment: “They yearn desperately for phonographs, radios, illustrated magazines, ‘movies,’ elevators, electric refrigerators, and automobiles, automobiles, and once again automobiles. [Americans] want to own at the earliest possible moment all the articles mentioned, which are so wonderfully convenient, and of which, by an odd reversal of things, they immediately become the anxious slaves.” Based on impressions from a 1928 visit to the states, Duhamel’s bestselling Scènes de la vie future (Scenes from the Life of the Future) lamented the cultural impact of mass-industrial production, technological modernity, and corporate marketing. The author linked U.S.-style popular consumption practices, including commercial radio listening, to unhealthy attitudes, which were not confi ned to national territory. Duhamel believed that “America the menace” threatened to engulf Europe. “There are on our continent,” he noted, “in France as well as elsewhere, large regions that the spirit of old Europe has deserted. The American spirit colonizes little by little such a province, such a city, such a house, and such a soul.”2