Gill Plain

in Literature of the 1940s: War, Postwar and "Peace"

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2013 | ISBN: 9780748627448
Published online May 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780748695164 | DOI:

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This chapter explores the urge to document, to bear witness and to find strategies to make sense of war in writing of the 1940s. It considers the difficulties experienced by writers silenced by the legacy of the First World War and the Spanish Civil War, and by those who found that the scale of this new conflict challenged the possibilities of literary expression. Documentary prose and the fragmentary insights of the short story emerged as two important responses to the challenging climate of war, and the chapter explores writing by Margery Allingham, Alun Lewis, Julian MacLaren Ross and Elizabeth Berridge. Later sections pursue the social documentary impulse through narratives of evacuation and childhood trauma, and through accounts of factory work and the limits of community cohesion. The primary focus of the chapter is on the documentation of an imperilled domesticity, but a final section examines writers who looked outwards to Europe in their attempt to understand the catastrophe of war. The chapter includes analysis of works by a range of writers including Nevil Shute, Phyllis Bottome, Noel Streatfeild, Inez Holden, J. B. Priestley, Monica Dickens, Storm Jameson and Arthur Koestler.

Keywords: Short Stories; Witnessing; Domesticity; Children; Evacuation; Factories; War work; Army life; France; Atrocities

Chapter.  15230 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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