Vol. 8 No. 2 1941 - page 111

war in which poets and novelists could be important figures. Of course,
it is nothing of the kind.
is an ali-in modern war fought mainly by
technical experts (airmen etc.) and conducted by people who are patriotic
according to their lights but entirely reactionary in outlook. At present
there is no function in it for intellectuals. From the start the Government
have more or less frankly gone on the principle of "keeping the Reds out
of it," and it was not till after the disaster in France that they began to
allow men known to have fought in Spain to join the army. Consequently
the chief activity among leftwing writers is a rather pettifogging
which turns into a kind of dismay when England wins a victory, because
this always falsifies their predictions. In the summer the leftwing intelli–
gentsia were completely defeatist, far more so than they allowed to appear
in print. At the moment when England seemed likely to be invaded one
well-known leftwing writer actually wanted to discourage the idea of mass
resistance, on the ground that the Germans would behave more leniently
if not opposed. There was also a move on foot, with an eye to the coming
Nazi occupation, to get the Scotland Yard Special Branch to destroy the
political dossiers which, no doubt, most of us possess. All this was in
marked contrast to the attitude of the common people, who either had not
woken up to the fact that England was in danger, or were determined to
resist to the last ditch. But certain leftwing writers and lecturers who had
fought in Spain, notably Tom Wintringham, did a lot to stem the tide of
Personally I consider it all to the good that the confident war-mon–
gering mood of the Popular Front period, with its lying propaganda and
its horrible atmosphere of orthodoxy, has been destroyed. But it has left
a sort of hole. Nobody knows what to think, nothing is being started. It is
very difficult to imagine any new "school" of literature arising at a moment
when the youngish writers have had their universe punctured and the very
young are either in the army or kept out of print by lack of paper. More–
over the economic foundations of literature are shifting, for the highbrow
literary magazine, depending ultimately on leisured people who have been
brought up in a minority culture, is becoming less and less possible.
is a sort of modern democratised version of this (compare its
general tone with that of the
of ten years ago), and even
keeps going only with difficulty. On the other hand the reading public is
increasing and the intellectual level of the popular press has taken a tre–
mendous bound upwards since the outbreak of war. But hardly any good
are appearing. Novels are still being published in great numbers,
but they are of a trashiness that passes belief. Only the mentally dead are
capable of sitting down and writing novels while this nightmare is going
on. The conditions that made it possible for Joyce and Lawrence to do
best work during the war of
(i.e., the consciousness that
presently the world would be sane again) no longer exist. There is such a
doubt about the continuity of civilization as can hardly have existed for
hundreds of years, and meanwhile there are the air-raids, which make con·
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