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Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"Volume 5$
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Gill Plain

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748627448

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748627448.001.0001

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(p.239) Chapter 8 Atomising
Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

Gill Plain

Edinburgh University Press

The emergence of a new ‘cold’ war makes it difficult to write of ‘peace’ in the 1940s. However, this embryonic conflict introduced new preoccupations into the literary landscape of the decade, and the final chapter includes analysis of writers’ responses to a defeated Germany, Evelyn Waugh’s fear of American cultural hegemony, Dennis Wheatley’s horror of Communism, and Graham Greene’s depiction of both postwar Europe and British Colonial authority as sites of moral dissolution. It also considers George Orwell, whose dystopian fables would powerfully encapsulate the anxieties of world politics and the business of survival in austerity Britain. Surveying writers as diverse as Phyllis Bottome, H. E. Bates, Philip Larkin, Louis MacNeice and R. S. Thomas, the book explores the dismantling of Empire and the impact of immigration on categories of belonging and concepts of land, home and nation. Yet despite these public concerns, the final years of the 1940s were characterised by retrenchment and alienation, marked in both poetry and prose by landscapes of desolation and despair. ‘Atomising’ thus represents both the dawn of a post-atomic, post-Holocaust era, and the atomised state of the postwar individual.

Keywords:   Austerity, Germany, America, Cold War, Atom Bomb, Reaction, Nation, Home, Postcolonialism, End of Empire

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