XI. English Literature of the 40’s — 60’s of the XX Century

In 1941 Germany and Japan attacked the Soviet Union and the United States, both quite unexpectedly. It was a mistake, because the war involved two of the most powerful nations in the world. The war quickly became worldwide. As a result, Britain used soldiers from all parts of its empire to help to fight against Germany and Japan. Britain tried to save the “balance of power” in Europe, and to control the Atlantic Ocean and the sea surrounding Britain. The Second World War had lasted longer than the First World War. The figures of over 303 000 soldiers and 60 000 civilians in air raids was a very high price to pay for the mistakes of the inter-war years.

Beginning with the year of 1946 England forced a strong resistance on the part of the oppressed people of India and Egypt. There began the crash of the colonial Empire. The British Empire was coming to an end. The Empire was losing its colonial possessions. This was partly because of the rapid growth of local liberation movements, but also because of a change in thinking. However, the ending of Britain’s Empire was a successful process, because the newly independent countries remained on friendly terms with Britain. After the Second World War the unity of the European countries was very important. In 1957 the state refused to take part in the creation of a European Common Market. It was a mistake, because it was very difficult for Britain to stay out of Europe in the conditions of the increasing financial and economic difficulties.

The Second World War influenced greatly the ideological and intellectual life of England, which could not but affect the development of English literature. During the war Great Britain suffered heavy financial losses. The postwar programme of the Labour Party became the only hope for a better future for the common people of England. It promised to do away with unemployment, to improve living conditions, to level up the prices.

Great attention in the programme was paid to cooperation with the Soviet Union. So the General Parliamentary elections of 1945 brought utter defeat to the Conservatives and complete victory to the Labour Party. Very soon, however, the people saw that the policy of Labour leaders did not differ much from that of their predecessors; for England the postwar years were years of crisis, growing unemployment which was the result of the Home and Foreign policy of the Labour Party.

The failure of the Labour Government that promised a lot and did nothing, the cold war and atomic threat, the rapid intensification of the cultural and moral crises — these were the factors which influenced the minds of the English people, particularly intelligentsia, and caused their disillusionment. All this was reflected in the literature of that time. Jack Lindsay in his “Novels of the British Way” gives a fine picture of the complicated political situation in England after World War II.

Besides socialist literature other literary tendencies appeared one after another: “The Angry Young Man” (1953-1957), “Movement”, “New Left” and teenager’s literature (after 1958 “the Working-Class Novel” and “the New Wave Drama”). The main essence of all these literary groups was the earnest searchings of the writers for their place in life, for a better future…

The number of progressive writers, standing on realistic principles has grown to a large extent. Realism became the highway in the English literature of the postwar period. After World War II the novel continued to be the leading genre in English literature, Charles Percy Snow, Graham Greene, James Aldridge became the famous writers of that period. In the fifties there appeared the term “Angry Young Men” applied to the young people, the writers, who wanted to express their anger with society and their disillusionment and dissatisfaction with a strange and unsettling world.

George Orwell (1903-1950)

George Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, was well-educated in Eton. After an upper-class education he worked for Burma...

Charles Percy Snow (1905-1980)

Charles Percy Snow was born in 1905 in Leicester, a relatively prosperous city based on boot-and-shoe trades. He was the...

Graham Greene (1904-1991)

Graham Greene is a contradictory writer, possessing a great force of conviction whose late novels seem to show a very...

James Aldridge

James Aldridge was born in 1918 on the Island of Man near Scotland, in the family of an English writer....

John James Osborne (1929-1994)

John James Osborne was born in 1929 in a suburb of London. He lived there until the beginning of World...

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