British Literature of the Blitz: Fighting the People’s War by Kristine A. Miller (auth.)

By Kristine A. Miller (auth.)

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London, 1940” 23) Nowhere in London is pleasant because everywhere are the ruined landmarks of personal and national vulnerability. This chapter examines Bowen’s conflicting impulses in the face of a danger that she found both fearful and compelling: on the one hand, she longed to retreat to the safe haven of Bowen’s Court away from the London Blitz that threatened to destroy all that she held dear; on the other, she yearned to live “with every pore open” and to write stories about “the packed repercussions” of thousands of civilian lives “under stress” during the bombing.

The hasty parallel suggests Bowen’s urgent need to explain hostilities between the Axis and Allied powers. At the same time, the hastiness reveals an equally urgent desire to maintain the illusion of Irish social harmony by contrasting fascist power with the more harmonious social relations on the site of the Big House. A comparison of the landlord’s domestic power with the Nazis’ political power emphasizes the landlord’s benevolence and thus appears to relocate the social inequities of Ireland to Germany.

It is by dislocations, by recurrent checks to his desire for meaning, that the writer is most thrown out. The imagination cannot simply endure events; for it the passive role is impossible. Where it cannot dominate, it is put out of action. (“Contemporary” 340) The war nearly did put Bowen’s novelistic imagination out of action. Having written six novels in the 11 years between 1927 and 1938, Bowen spent the following 11 years working on one – The Heat of the Day – which she composed both during and after the Blitz and finally published in 1949.

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