This book considers the literary construction of what E. M. Forster calls 'the 1939 State', namely the anticipation of the Second World War between the Munich crisis of 1938 and the end of the Phoney War in the spring of 1940. Steve Ellis investigates not only myriad responses to the imminent war but also various peace aims and plans for post-war reconstruction outlined by such writers as T. S. Eliot, H. G. Wells, J. B. Priestley, George Orwell, E. M. Forster and Leonard and Virginia Woolf. He argues that the work of these writers is illuminated by the anxious tenor of this period. The result is a novel study of the 'long 1939', which transforms readers' understanding of the literary history of the eve-of-war era.

  • Unique concentration on a short but crucial period of literary history (late 1938 to early 1940)
  • New insights into key writings of the period
  • Mutual illumination of the work of writers who are rarely considered together
  • Retrieval of forgotten and neglected literary texts that have considerable historical significance

Table of Contents

1. Post-Munich I: T. S. Eliot and the spiritual revival
2. Post-Munich II: literature of the crisis
3. H. G. Wells and the new world order
4. Orwell, Forster and the role of the writer
5. Virginia Woolf and the theatre of war.

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