collapsing Europe

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At lunch the next day with a musician friend. In New York he played twice a month, ate food stamps. In collapsing Europe he’s paid 2,000 euros a night to play a quattrocento church.
(From My Berlin Airlift, paragraph 10)

I'm not sure how to understand "collapsing Europe":
[1] It's a historical usage with specific meaning, like "the beaten generation" "the golden rush".
[2] It's a contemporary usage, simply referring to an unsound economic situation (or cultural atmosphere?)

Thanks to anyone who offers advice.
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  • Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    It is indeed always easier and safer with full context. As I was guessing before, I believe it refers to the current state of Europe's economy.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's contemporary usage, but I read it as ironic too. It's not a set phrase or anything like that.

    The implication is that Americans (including the author before his trip to Germany) believe that the European economy and society is in a state of collapse; but in fact Europeans can afford to pay musicians large salaries for artistic performances, while in supposedly better-off America they would starve.

    Moon Palace

    Senior Member
    In fact, I've read the article again and I think there is indeed irony, but given the focus of the whole article, I would say that it emphasizes the fact that any kind of art or culture seems (from the author's point of view of course) to fare better in Europe than in the states, as shows this other excerpt:
    One installationist said, “Americans like e-books because they’re easier to buy.” A performance artist said, “They’re also easier not to read.” True enough: their presence doesn’t remind you of what you’re missing; they don’t take up space on shelves.
    Of course, I might well be influenced by my European character ;)


    Senior Member
    English - British
    Neither of the above. It usually means the entire structure is falling down at one go.
    In this case, though, in view of the size and scale of the European economy, it could be taken to mean 'collapsing progressively'.
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