‘The savage and austere light of a burning world’: The Cinematic Blitz

Lara Feigel

in Literature, Cinema and Politics 1930-1945

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780748639502
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652938 | DOI:
‘The savage and austere light of a burning world’: The Cinematic Blitz

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This chapter examines the British literature responding to the cinematic and photographic qualities of the Blitz. The cinematic properties of the Blitz were perhaps best captured in literature by three wartime firemen: Stephen Spender, Henry Green, and William Sansom. The wartime fiction of Elizabeth Bowen had always had an unnerving propensity to stir into life. Sansom's ‘Fireman Flower’ turns both the living and the dead into ghosts. Graham Greene's The Ministry of Fear and Bowen's The Heat of the Day expose the arbitrary nature of international politics in a war that is fought by automata in the sky and by ghosts on the ground. The Blitz literature was necessarily cinematic because the bombing, like the film and the photograph, thrust its victims into the deathly tense of the has-been-there.

Keywords: Blitz; Stephen Spender; Henry Green; William Sansom; Elizabeth Bowen; Graham Greene; international politics; Blitz literature; Fireman Flower

Chapter.  16228 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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