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'War Like A Wasp:The Lost Decade of the Forties' -Andrew Sinclair

World War 2 Art World War 2 Literature

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#1 MichaelBully



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Posted 11 January 2017 - 08:37 PM


Sharing my 'Amazon UK' review of this superb book, from 1989.  I gave this one five stars. Has got one 'like' vote ! Regards



" I would rather have been in London under siege between 1940 and 1945 than anywhere else " (Author ) John Lehman said "Except perhaps Troy in the time that Homer celebrated."
I am studying World War 2 poetry so a crucial read. It's a veritable encyclopedia of the era. Probably a long decade - from the ending of the Spanish Civil War until the Festival of Britain, so effectively Spring 1939 - Spring 1951. Of course some of the individuals from this era are well studied, Francis Bacon, Dylan Thomas. Henry Moore, Laurence Olivier,for instance. Other figures who appeared at the time such as William Golding, Mervyn Peake, Keith Vaughn, John Minton, were to become famous later. A few such as Alan Ross, Vernon Scannell, Roy Fuller, were to become recognised. There are fewer references to George Orwell than one would have expected, even though his four volume collection of letters and essays were published long before this book was written.
Yes this book is vital for anyone interested in the culture of the 1940's particularly the Second World. The covers, stage, screen, sculpture, novels, and poetry- in fact page after page features contemporary quotes. The title in fact from 'Epilogue, Testimony, and Prophecy' by John Bayliss. The work of Alan Ross, John Jarmain, John Pudney, Alun Lewis, Edith Sitwell. Hamish Henderson , are all cited. A Roll call of poets, artists and writers who died in the Second World War is offered.
A huge amount of drinking and urgent living took place as the city was being bombed. The artists and writers of the time had to deal with loss , deprivation, the realisation of the concentration camps and the atomic bombs. Promiscuity was more common, Some came to terms with the horror of the time - such as Francis Bacon, others such as the New Apocalypse poets such as John Hendry and Henry Treece floundered. The rise of the BBC, documentary film making,could help fund the artist ( again I am surprised Orwell's letters were not drawn on in this respect).
This author portrays a grudging patriotism. No indication is given of any great support for the Peace Pledge Union, though Conscientious Objectors and deserters were welcomed. Other 'outsiders' such as the extrovert homosexual Quentin Crisp were also accepted.
Not indexed alas, and the references for each chapter are published at the very end of the book so difficult to trace quotes and sources at times. Also very centred round Fitzrovia- with a huge array of pub 'characters' and drinking tales are added to the book.Just a little about Scotland, Ulster and Wales but English regionalism is overlooked.
But these are minor concerns compared with the huge range of information about poetry, novels, the stage, which makes this work a valuable resource.

#2 Coder



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Posted 12 January 2017 - 10:54 AM

Maybe the author's grudging patriotism inhibited mention of one significant literary figure, Vera Brittain, who spoke out trenchantly against the policy of 'carpet bombing' of German cities - "methods of barbarism", and chaired the Peace Pledge Union's Food Relief Campaign to get food to starving children in occupied Greece and Belgium - a direct forerunner of present-day Oxfam.

No mention of the rising composer Michael Tippett, imprisoned as a conscientious objector, for whom his fellow COs, Bwnjamin Britten and Peter Pears, gave a concert in prison.

No mention, at the end of the chosen extended decade, Spring 1951, of the leaflet drafted by Alex Comfort for the Peace Pledge Union inveighing against the futility of Civil Defence as a sop to lull the masses into accepting the British Bomb. Mass distribution of the leaflet caused questions to be raised in Parliament.

#3 MichaelBully



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Posted 12 January 2017 - 08:14 PM

Interesting points raised Coder. I read up on  British  Conscientious Objection in World War 2  and the life and work of Vera Brittain. 

Edited by MichaelBully, 12 January 2017 - 08:15 PM.

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