Thursday, December 16, 2010

Post-Modern Literature

Understanding Post-modernism
Until the 1920’s, the term “modern” used to mean new or contemporary, but thereafter it came to be used for a particular period, the one between the two World Wars (1914-1945). Then came up after about half a century the, magic term, “post-modern,” meaning the period after the modern.
Now, this sort of naming is certainly problematic. For how many “post” will have to be used for the further periods of literary history to follow? Since our purpose here is limited to writing the “history” of literature, we shall not go on with the issue, leaving the matter for the more qualified critics to give it a thought. Even as it is, there is a problem about the naming of the period between 1945 to 1965, during which period there was no consciousness of what is now called “post-modern”. The period of the “post-modern” is said to date from the mid-sixties - some critics push it even further to the nineteen eighties. Dealing with the contemporary is always, of course, a little ticklish, because closer we stand to an object, more details we see of the picture. Once removed by some distance, the outline comes out clearly. As of today, critics have seen historical changes in literary styles from decade to decade, from even author to author. Perhaps we shall have to wait another half a century or so to be able to make greater generalizations about the later half of the twentieth century. Meanwhile, let us accept what has become almost conventional in the historical writing of English literature.
In his essay “The Post-Modern Condition,” Krishan Kumar has clarified some confusion about the meaning of post-modernism:
Most theories claim that contemporary societies show a new or heightened degree of fragmentation, pluralism, and individualism.... It can also be linked to the decline of the nation-state and dominant national cultures. Political, economic, and cultural life is now strongly influenced by developments at the global level. This has as one of its effects, unexpectedly, the renewed importance of the local, and a tendency to stimulate sub-national and regional cultures....
Post-modernism proclaims multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies. It promotes the politics of difference! Identity is not unitary or essential, it is fluid and shifting, fed by multiple sources and taking multiple forms (there is no such thing as ‘woman’ or ‘black’).’
The debate about contemporary society being “post-industrial,” “post-modern,” “post-structuralist,” “post-colonial,” “pluralistic,” “multi-cultural,” “fragmented,” etc., goes on, with select pieces of literature used for illustration. The fact of the matter is that the theoretical discussion of the subject has been self-generative, proliferating all over the space, pushing literature to the periphery, leaving not much space for actual human narratives in the privileged domain. As such, it has not proved of much help to the historian of literature who would much rather record the literary happenings than discuss literary theories (unless, of course, the latter has been an integral part of the former). Until the time of the Modernists like Pound and Eliot, literary theory came from the leading literary writers. During the Post-modern period, however, it has come from the non-literary thinkers. Hence the problem of its meaningful application to literary works.
One quickly turns to Frederic Jameson, who seems to have aptly articulated the reader’s dilemma about “post-modernism”:
I occasionally get just as tired of the slogan ‘post-modern’ as anyone else, but when I am tempted to regret my complicity with it, to deplore its misuses and its notoriety, and to conclude with some reluctance that it raises more problems than it solves, I find myself pausing to wonder whether any other concept can dramatize the issues in quite so effective and economical a fashion.
In the absence of a more useful concept, therefore, as also because now the concept of post-modernism has come to stay, we have no choice but to go on with it, leaving the problems it has raised to time for whatever solution will become possible tomorrow. But we must know at the same time how and why the term ‘postmodernism’ has come about and what it has accumulated around itself as a description of certain distinctive characteristics of the post-War period, which is still going on.
The growth of post-modernism, in the words of Charles Jencks, a major theorist of architecture and the originator of the term, has been “a sinuous, even tortuous, path. Twisting to the left and then to the right, branching down the middle, it resembles the natural form of a spreading root, or a meandering river that divides, changes course, doubles back on itself and takes off in a new direction.” (What is Post-Modernism? London: Academy Editions, 1986, p.2). We may cite and examine any number of definitions (out of the innumerable available to us), post-modernism proves slippery like a snake whose twists and twirls are impossible to pin down. From the very inception of the term in Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History (1947), the term has accumulated a lot of meanings many of which are mutually contradictory. How then do we go about understanding the term, making sense of all that it has accumulated? As Tim Woods has rightly observed:
The prefix ‘post’ suggests that any post-modernism is inextricably bound up with modernism, either as a replacement of modernism or as chronologically after modernism. Indeed with post-modernism, post-feminism, post-colonialism and post-industrialism, that ‘post’ can be seen to suggest a critical engagement with modernism, rather than claiming the end of modernism to survive, or it can be seen that modernism has been overturned, superseded or replaced. The relationship is something more akin to a continuous engagement, which implies that post-modernism needs modernism to survive, so that they exist in something more like a host-parasite relationship. Therefore, it is quite crucial to realize that any definition of post-modernism will depend upon one’s prior definition of modernism. (Beginning post-modernism. Manchester University Press, 1999, p.6)
Seen from the viewpoint suggested above, one can see how post-modernism is a sort of knowing modernism, or a self-reflective modernism. In one sense, post-modernism is a modernism which does not agonise itself; it, in fact, does all that modernism does, but only in a mood of celebration, not in a mood of repentance. Rather than lament the loss of the past, the fragmentation of life, and the collapse of civilization as well as selfhood, postmodernism embraces these phenomena as a new form of social existence and behaviour. Thus, the difference between the two is best understood as difference in mood or attitude, rather than a chronological difference or as different institutions of aesthetic practices.
One core issue of this debate between postmodernism and modernism is the extent to which the Enlightenment values are still valuable. The Romantic philosophers, such as Rousseau, Kant and Hegel, had placed great faith in man’s ability to reason as a means of securing our freedom. The modernist philosophers later raised doubts about man’s ability to do so. This questioning of the Romantic philosopher’s faith is mainly associated with the work of Jean-Francois Lyotard, for whom postmodernism is best understood as an attack on reason. As Sabina Lovibond has observed:
The Enlightenment pictured the human race as engaged in an effort towards universal moral and intellectual self-realization, and so as the subject of a universal historical experience; it also postulated a universal human reason in terms of which social and political tendencies could be assessed as ‘progressive’ or otherwise.... Postmodernism rejects this picture: that is to say, it rejects the doctrine of the unity of reason. It refuses to conceive of humanity as a unitary subject striving towards the goal of perfect coherence (in its common stock of beliefs) or of perfect cohesion and stability (in its political practice). (“Feminism and Postmodernism”, New Left Review, 178 (1989):6)
As against the universality of modernism and the long-standing conception of the human self as a subject with a single, unified reason. Postmodernism has pitted reasons in the plural, that is fragmented and in­commensurable. Post-modern theory is suspicious of the notion that man possesses an undivided and coherent self which acts as the standard of rationality. It no longer believes that reasoning subjects can act as vehicles for historically progressive change. Here, we must also understand the difference between post-modernism and post-modernity. Post-modernity is used to describe the socio-economic, political and cultural condition of the present-day West; where people are living in post-industrial, ‘service-oriented’ economies; where human dealings like shopping are mediated through the computer interface, where communication is done through e-mail, voice-mail, fax, teleconference on video-link; where the wider world is accessed via the net; where the choice of entertainment falls on high-speed image bombardment of the pop video, etc. Such conditions of living are often described as “post-modernity”. Postmodernism on the other hand describes only the aesthetic and intellectual beliefs and attitudes often presented in the form of theory.
The term postmodernism, in use roughly since the 1960’s, designates cultural forms that display certain characteristics, which include (i) the denial of an all-encompassing rationality; (ii) the distrust of meta-narratives; (iii) challenge to totalizing discourses; in other words, suspicion of discursive attempts to offer a universal account of existence; (iv) a rejection of modernism. Thus, rejecting belief in the infinite progress of knowledge; in infinite moral and social advancement; in rigorous definition of the standards of intelligibility, coherence and legitimacy; postmodernism seeks local or provisional, rather than universal and absolute, forms of legitimation.
INTELLECTUAL BACKGROUND
Jean-Francois Lyotard (1724-98)
Extensive and varied debates about postmodernism in philosophy and cultural theory notwithstanding, we can concentrate upon the key theorists whose ideas have shaped these debates about the philosophical effects and theoretical impact of the movement after modernism. The philosopher who is said to have put the first post-modern cat among the modernist pigeons was Jean-Francois Lyotard, whose The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979) occupies a special place among a set of books which launched an attack on modernity. His argument is for a rejection of the search for logically consistent, self-evidently “true” grounds for philosophical discourse. Instead, he would wish to substitute ad hoc tactical manoeuvres as justification for what are generally considered eccentricities. Ultimately, he is suspicious of all claims to proof or truth. As he puts it, “Scientists, technicians, and instruments are purchased not to find truth, but to augment power,” (Postmodern Condition, p.46). In his considered view, beneath the facade of objectivity there always is a hidden and dominant discourse of realpolitik: “The exercise of terror” (p.64). Thus, any kind of legitimation is nothing but an issue of power. He believes that there is a connection, an intimate one, between power and the rhetoric of truth or value.
Lyotard identifies “an equation between wealth, efficiency, and truth,” and contends that it continually remains a question of: “No money, no proof—and that means no verification of statements and no truth. The games of scientific language become the games of the rich, in which whoever is wealthiest has the best chance of being right” (Postmodern Condition, p.45). He also demonstrates how utilatarianism is predominant in institutions:
The question (overt or implied) now asked by the professionalist student, the State, or institutions of higher education is no longer ‘Is it true?’ but ‘What use is it?’ In the context of the mercantilization of knowledge, more often than not this question is equivalent to: ‘Is it saleable?’
And in the context of power-growth: ‘Is it efficient?’... What ho longer makes the grade is competence as defined by other criteria true/false, just/unjust, etc. (Postmodern Condition, p.51).
From these ideas Lyotard develops a narrative of the difference between modernist and postmodernist aesthetics which does not conform to an historical period. In his argument, Modernism is:
an aesthetic of the sublime, though a nostalgic one. It allows the unpresentable to be put forward only as the missing contents; but the form, because of its recognizable consistency, continues to offer to the reader or viewer matter for solace or pleasure....
The postmodern would be that which, in the modern, puts forward the unpresentable in presentation itself, that which denies itself the solace of good forms...that which searches for new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable.
Thus, to sum up Lyotard’s view of Postmodernism, it is, first of all, a distrust of all metanarratives; it is also anti-foundational. Secondly, when it presents the unpresentable, it does not do so with a sense of nostalgia, nor does it offer any solace in so doing. Thirdly, it does not seek to present reality but to invent illusions to the conceivable which cannot be presented. Fourthly, it actively seeks heterogeneity, pluralism, and constant innovation. Lastly, it challenges the legitimation of positivist science.
Jean Baudrillard (1929—)
Next to Lyotard, the founder of Postmodernism, comes Jean Baudrillard, another French intellectual who can be called the high priest of Postmodernism. According to Baudrillard, postmodernity is also characterized by “simulations” and new forms of technology of communication. His argument is that whereas earlier cultures depended on either face-to-face communication or, later, print, contemporary culture is dominated by images from the electronic mass media. Our lives today are increasingly being shaped by simulated events and opportunities on television, computer shopping at “virtual stores,” etc. Simulation is in which the images or ‘manufactured’ reality become more real than the real. In his view, the demarcation between simulation and reality implodes; and along with this collapse of distinction between image and reality, the very experience of the real world is lost. Hyper-reality, according to Baudrillard, is the state where distinctions between objects and their representations are dissolved. In that case, we are left with only simulacra. Media messages are prime examples that illustrate this phenomenon. In these messages, self-referential signs lose contact with the things they signify, leaving us witness to an unprecedented destruction of meaning. Advertisements present manipulated images to float a dream world only to trap the viewer for the sale of consumer goods. The manipulated simulation, manufacturing motivated reality, ignores or overlooks the harsh or unpleasant aspects associated with an image—say New York or New Delhi. Consequently, the images of sparkle and light casually erase the urgent socio-economic problems. His conclusion is that TV is the principal embodiment of these aesthetic transformations, where the implosion of meaning and the media result in “the dissolution of TV into life, the dissolution of life into TV” (Simulations, New York, 1983, p.55). Baudrillard was the one who contributed to the Guardian of 11 January, 1991, the well-known article “The Gulf War Did Not Take Place.”
Jacquis Derrida (1930-2004)
Perhaps the most influential person among the Postmodernist intellectuals has been Jacquis Derrida, who remains the principal theorist of Deconstruction. The publication of the three of his books in 1967, namely Writing and Difference, Of Grammatology, and Of Speech and Phenomena, laid the foundation of the theory of Deconstruction. Derrida has his precursors in Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1939), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), who questioned the fundamental philosophical concepts such as “knowledge”, “truth”, and “identity” as well as the traditional concepts of a coherent individual consciousness and a unitary self. Although notoriously difficult and elusive, Derrida’s views can be summarised as under:
He insists that all Western philosophies and theories of knowledge, of language and its uses, of culture, are LOGOCENTRIC. What he means is that they are centred or grounded on a “logo” (which in Greek signified both “word” and “rationality.”). Using a phrase from Heidegger, he says that they rely on “the metaphysics of presence.” According to him, these philosophies and theories are logocentric in part because they are PHONOCENTRIC; that they, in other words, grant, implicitly or explicitly, logical “priority”, or “privilege”, to speech over writing as the model for analysing all discourse.
Derrida’s explanation for “logo” or “presence” is that it is an “ultimate referent”, a self-certifying and self-sufficient ground, or foundation, which is available to us totally outside the play of language itself. In other words, it is directly present to our awareness and serves to “centre” (that is to anchor, organise and guarantee) the structure of the linguistic system. As a result, it suffices to fix the bounds, coherence, and determinate meanings of any spoken or written utterance within the foundation in God as the guarantor of its validity. Another is Platonic form of the true reference of a general term. Still another is Hegelian “telos” or goal toward which all process strives. Intention, too, is an instance, which signifies something determinate that is directly present to the awareness of the person who initiates an utterance. Derrida questions these philosophies and shows how untenable these premises are. His alternative conception is that the play of linguistic meanings is “undecidable” in terms derived from Saussure’s view that in a sign-system (which is language), both the “signifiers” and the “signifides” owe their seeming identities, not to their own inherent or “positive” features, but to their differences from other speech sounds, written marks, or conceptual significations.
Derrida’s most influential concept has been that of DIFFERANCE. His explanation for substituting ‘a’ for ‘e’ is that he has done it to indicate a fusion of two senses of the French verb “differer,” which are (I) to be different, and to defer. Thus, meanings of words are relational (in relation to other words). They are also contextual. In any case, there are no absolute meanings, nor are the meanings of words stable, as words always defer their meanings. Any utterance, therefore, oral or written, can be subjected to any number of interpretations, depending upon the reader’s ability to “play” with the various possible meanings each word is capable of yielding. This view of language and meaning has had great impact on both literary criticism as well as literary writing. Postmodernist texts as well as interpretations decentre and subvert the conventional or settled meanings and values of any given story or situation, concept or construction, system or structure.
Some of Derrida’s sceptical procedures have been quite influential in deconstructive literary criticism as well as in feminist, postcolonial, and poststructuralist creative compositions. One of these is to subvert the innumerable binary oppositions—such as man/woman, soul/body, right/wrong, white/black, culture/nature, etc.—which are essential structural elements in logocentric language. In Derrida’s view, as he shows, there is a tacit hierarchy implied in these binaries, in which the term that comes first is privileged and superior, while the one that comes second is derivative and inferior. What Derrida does is to invert the hierarchy, by showing that the secondary term can be made out to be derivitative from, or a special case of the primary term. He does not, however, stop at that; rather, he goes on to destablise both hierarchies, leaving them in a state of undecidability.
Derrida had not thought of Deconstruction as a mode of literary criticism. He had only suggested a way of reading all kinds of utterances so as to reveal and subvert the presuppositions of Western Metaphysics. But more than any other discipline of knowledge it is literary criticism which has adopted his theory of Deconstruction as a critical tool of literary analysis. His most ardent followers have, however, been in America, not in England. The most influential of these has been Paul de Man whose Allegories of Reading (1979) was the earliest application of Derrida’s concepts and procedures. Then came Barbara Johnson, a student of de Man, whose work, The Critical Difference (1980), carried the task of appropriating Derrida to literary criticism still further. Later, J. Hillis Miller, once a leading American critic of the Geneva School, converted to Deconstruction and contributed to the theory’s practical application his Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels (1982), The Linguistic Movement: From Wordsworth to Stevens (1985), and Theory Then and Now (199l).
Michael Foucault (1926-84)
As he himself described, Foucault was a “specialist in history of systems of thought”, although we often call him a French philosopher and historian. Even though he wrote on a variety of subjects ranging from science to literature, his works that have influenced the course of Postmodern literature and literary criticism include The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), The Order of Things (1966), Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975), History of Sexuality (1976), Power/Knowledge (1980), “What is an Author?” (1977), and Madness and Civilization (1961). In the book listed last, Foucault explores how madness is socially constructed by a wide variety of DISCOURSES that give rise to collective attitudes or mentalities defining insanity. Its basic thesis is that, like the lepers of the Middle Ages, the mad are excluded in a gesture that helps to construct modern society and its image of reason. Foucault’s major works examine the question why, in any given period, it is necessary to think in certain terms about madness, illness, sexuality or prisons. By clear implication he seems to ask if it is possible to think about those topics in different ways. The effect of Foucault has been to view with distrust all that has been passing in the name of essentials, universals, or natural, and take all these as social constructs reflecting the values of different cultures and societies.
In the history of philosophy, Foucault’s work falls within the tradition established by Nietzsche, from whom he adopts the technique of “Genealogy” and the insight that the search for knowledge is also an expression of a will to power over others. For Foucault knowledge is always a form of power. He takes even psychiatry and mental health as new technologies that categorize certain forms of social and sexual behaviour as deviant in order to control them. The modern psychiatrist assumes the role of medieval priest, seeking confessions, imposing the values of the empowered. His thesis is that power is not something that one seizes, holds, or loses, but a network of forces in which power always meets with resistance. These views have led to the challenging of all sorts of political, social, and gender constructs, taken as networks of power to repress the weak, the individual, the disadvantaged, the female, etc. Although Foucault’s name was associated with structuralism and the controversial theme of Barthe’s catchy title, DEATH OF THE AUTHOR (1968) and DEATH OF MAN (1966), his true concern remained with the formation and limitations of systems of thought. Although made an icon of QUEER THEORY, Foucault’s contribution has been valuable to all the Postmodern critical approaches including the Feminist, Postcolonial, Poststructuralist, etc.
Roland Barthes (1915-80)
A French literary critic and theorist Barthes has been quite influential among the Postmodernist writers and critics. His principal concern, despite his varied writings, remains with the relationship between language and society, and with the literary forms that mediate between the two. The idea is that no literary composition can be studied in isolation, being one of the practices of a culture, an expression of society’s ruling discourse. Hence, study of a text will be useful if it is done in relation to other contemporary practices of the same culture—even fashions of dress, cigarette smoking, or styles of wrestling. Cultural Studies, one of the aspects of Postmodernist critical theory, although founded by Richard Hoggart (The Uses of Literary, 1957) and Raymond Williams (Culture and Society 1780-1950, 1958), owes a good deal to the writings of Barthes as well.
Barthes’s famous work Mythologies (1957), as well as his very first essay on writing in 1953, demonstrates that no form or style of writing is a free expression of an author’s subjectivity, that writing is always marked by social and ideological values, that language is never innocent. A sense of the need for a critique of forms of writing that mask the historical-political features of the social world by making it appear ‘natural’, or inevitable, provides the impulse behind the analysis of Mythologies. Barthes’s other books include Elements of Semiology (1964), Writing Degree Zero (1953), The Pleasure of the Text (1975), and “The Death of the Author” (1968), later included in Image-Music-Text (1977) ed. By Stephen Heath. In his essay mentioned last, Barthes pleads for abandoning the conventional author-and-works approach in favour of an anthropological and psycho-analytical reading of canonical texts. His insistence is that literature as well as literary criticism, as well as language itself, is never neutral, and that the specificity of literature can be examined only within the context of a semiology or a general theory of signs. His ideas about language and author and their relation with social world promoted cultural studies as well as reader-response theory.
Jacques Lacan (1901-81)
A French psychoanalyst, also most controversial since Freud, Lacan has had an immense influence on the literary theory of our time, as well as on philosophy, feminism and psychoanalysis. Most of his important writings are included in his Ecrils (1966). His writings, full of allusion to Surrealism, contend that the unconscious is structured like a language. His notion of the Fragmented Body clearly shows his debt to surrealism. He elaborates an immensely broad synthetic vision in which psychoanalysis appropriates the findings of philosophy, the structural anthropology of Levistrauss, and the linguistics of Saussure. He also heavily relies on Jackbson’s work of Phoneme analysis and Metaphor/Metonymy. He defines language as a synchronic system of signs which generates meaning through their interaction. In other words, meaning insists in and through a chain of signifiers, and does not reside in any one element. For him there is never any direct correspondence between signifier and signified, and meaning is therefore always in danger of sliding or slipping out of control.

Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975)
A Russian literary theorist, Bakhtin has been a great influence on the contemporary theory of Discourse analysis. He is best known by his works named The Dialogic Imagination (1981), Speech Genres and Other Late Essays (1986), Rabelais and his World (1968), and Problems of Dostoevski’s Poetics (1984). In these studies, there is a critique of Russian Formalism and an outline of his characteristic theme of “dialogism.” He criticizes Formalism for its abstraction, for its failure to analyse the content of literary works, and for the difficulty it finds in analysing linguistic and ideological changes. This critique is then extended to linguistics, especially the Saussurean. In his view, the purely linguistic approach to both language and literature is highly limited in scope. It tends to isolate linguistic units or literary texts from their social context, having no analysis to offer of the relations that exist between both individual speakers and texts.
Bakhtin’s proposal is for a historical poetics or a “translinguistics” which can show how all social intercourse is generated from verbal communication and interaction, and that linguistic signs are conditioned by the social organization of the participants. In his later work, Bakhtin develops his historical poetics into a theory of “speech genres” or “typical forms of utterances.” He claims that the weakness of Saussure’s linguistics is that it focuses solely on individual utterances and is unable to analyse how they are combined into relatively stable types of utterance. Although his speech theory remains incomplete, Bakhtin was ambitious to apply it to everything from proverbs to long novels by analysing their common verbal nature.
With these major intellectual influences in the background, the Postmodern literature in the second half of the twentieth century grew to show greater impact of the new ideas on the continent and in America, with comparatively much less impact on the literature of the British islands. Mostly used as a periodising concept to mark literature in the later half of the twentieth century, Postmodernism is also used, as we have earlier discussed, as a description of literary and formal characteristics such as linguistic play, new modes of narrational self-reflexivity, and referential frames within frames. Going chronologically and genrewise, we shall try to explore the nature and extent of Postmodernism the literature in Britain absorbed and reflected during the period beginning with the 1950’s.
Post-War Novel
After Hitler’s devastation of Britain, the country was literally in ruins, torn apart by years of bombardment. “The landscape of ruins must also be recognized as forming an integral part of much of the literature of the late 1940’s and the early 1950’s. It was a landscape which provided a metaphor for broken lives and spirits.” One of the best expressions in fiction of this ruin and its implications is a novel, The World My Wilderness (1950), by a female novelist of the post-War period, named Rose Macaulay (1881-1958). The novel’s London is not only post-War but also post-Eliotic: “Here you belong; you cannot get away, you do not wish to get away, for this the maquis that lies about the margins of the wrecked world, and here your feet are set... ‘Where are the roots that clutch, what branches grow out of this stony rubbish? Son of man, you cannot say, or guess....’ But you can say, you can guess, that it is you yourself, your own roots, that clutch the stony rubbish, the branches of your own being that grow from it and nowhere else.” Macaulay was, of course, not the only one to view the post-War period as one requiring the reassemblage of fragments of life and meaning. Another female novelist of the period, Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), also gave powerful expression to the post-War experience in her The Death of the Heart (1938), Look at all those Roses (1941), The Demon Lover (1945), The Heat of the Day (1949), and The Little Girls (1964). Equally important among the post-War novelists was another female writer, Rebecca West (the pen name of Cecily Isabel Fairfield, 1892-1983), whose The Fountain Overflows (1956) and The Birds Fall Down (1966) depict the same devastated world. With her pen-name derived from an Ibsen play, and actively involved in the feminist cause, West wrote on political climate of the cold-war era.
Graham Greene
A major novelist of the postmodern or contemporary period was Graham Greene (1904-1991), who frequently gave direct expression to his pessimism, such as “For a writer, success is always temporary,” or “Success is only a delayed failure,” which he made in his autobiographical memoir A Sort of Life (1977). He emerged a popular writer with his very first novel, The Comedians (1965). He was a staunch anti-imperialist who resented the rising imperialism of America and despised the crumbling empire of Britain. He remained a Roman Catholic since 1926 when he was admitted to the Roman Church. Almost all of his work is haunted by the themes of a wounded world of the European colonies in Africa or the American imperialism in Latin America, a gloomy sense of sin and moral failure, and a commitment to “others” and rebels. Although Greene produced as many as twenty six novels, those necessary to know are The Power and the Glory (1940), focused on the character of a Whisky-priest in anti-clerical Mexico; The Ministry of Fear (1943) and The End of the Affair (1951) both of which are located in the twilit, blitzed London; The Heart of the Matter (1948), focused on the flyblown, rat-infested, and war-blitzed West-African colony; The Quiet American (1955), set in Vietnam, and Our Man in Havana (1955), set in Cuba, both expose the American imperialism. All of these novels present a grim picture of the world that emerged in the post-War period.
Anthony Powell
Another notable novelist of the period was Anthony Powell, whose sequence of 12 novels collectively named A Dance to the Music of Time “is neither a fictionalized war memoir, nor a prose elegy for the decline and fall of a ruling class. However, as a chronicle of British upper-middle-class life, set between the 1920’s and 1950’s, it necessarily takes the disasters, disillusions, inconveniences, and changes of a society and its war in its leisurely and measured stride.”

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