The 20th century

The Twenties
The years between 1917 and 1930 form the first period. This was the time when the crisis of the bourgeois world reached its highest point and revolutions took place in several countries in Russia, in Germany and in Hungary. The general strike of 1926 revealed the seriousness of the class battles in Britain.
A symbolic method of writing had already started early in the 20th century. It was in the twenties, along with work of Critical Realism produced by Shaw, Wells and Galsworthy, that there appeared writers who refused to acknowledge reality as such. They would not believe that the mind of man reflected reality- nature and society. They would not believe that social relations between people influenced not only the formation of character in individuals, but also historical events. They thought reality to be superficial,- it was only a world of appearances. These writers called the inner psychological process "the stream of consciousness" and based a new literary technique upon it.
The most important author to use this new literary technique was James Joyce (1882-1941).
He influenced many writers on both sides of the Atlantic. James Joyce, a native of Ireland, spent nearly all his life in voluntary exile. He could not live in his own country for it was enslaved by England. This fact may partly explain his pessimistic view on life, which is reflected in his work.
The portrayal of the stream of consciousness as a literary technique is particularly evident in his major novel "Ulysses" (1922). The task he set before himself was to present a day in ordinary life as a miniature picture of the whole of human history; his characters being not only individuals but also universal representations of mankind in general. Therefore the text of "Ulysses" is a combination of different manners of writing and different styles. The actual characters of the book are often associated with people existing on the memories of the character, or with literary, historical and mythological figures. All this is intended by the author as a demonstration of the thesis that all manifestations of life are "programmed" in the subconscious mind.
Among the writers of short stories who used the realistic method were Katherine Mansfield and Somerset Maugham. Though the works of these writers differ very much in their artistic approach, their authors had one feature in common: to them the stability of the existing social and political order seemed unquestionable.
The Thirties
The second period in the development of English literature was the decade between 1930 and
World War II. The world economic crisis spread over the whole capitalist world in the beginning of the thirties. The Hunger March of the unemployed in 1933 was a memorable event in Britain. The unemployed marched from Glasgow to London holding meetings in every town they passed.
In Germany Hitler came to power in 1933. In 1936 the fascist mutiny of General Franco led to Civil War in Spain. The struggle of the Spanish people was supported by the democratic and anti-fascist forces all over the world. An International Brigade was formed, which fought side by side with the Spanish People's Army against the common enemy – fascism.
The Second World War broke out in 1939. When the Germans began massive bombing air raids 1940, England was on the verge of defeat. However, later developments brought a change.
A new generation of realist writers, among them Richard Aldington, J.B. Priestley and A.J. Cronin appeared on the literary scene. The feeling of important change and the heroic spirit of the anti-fascist struggle found its outlet in the first place in the development of poetry. The trio of poets (Auden, Spender and Day Lewis) inaugurated the new movement which sought to fuse poetry and politics. They stood out as representative figures, and on the whole they held this position till the year 1938. Then the crisis of the movement began. This group, usually known as the Oxford Poets was very popular in its time. But the movement did not last long as these poets could not see the new forms and contents of an art which would replace bourgeois art Richard Aldington (1892-1962) was born in the family of a lawyer. He studied at London University, but had to leave it because of strained circumstances. He worked as a sporting reporter of a newspaper, then he turned to writing poetry (1910-1915). His poems were published in the collection "Images Old and New." He took part in World War I. He returned shell-shocked and penniless.
Soon he began to work as a critic in the literary supplement to "The Times". He also published poems and literary research work. The years 1929-1939 were the most fruitful ones in Aldington's literary career. During these years he wrote and published seven novels. The best of them are: "Death of a Hero"(1929), "The Colonel's Daughter" (1931),"All Men Are Enemies"(1933), "Women Must Work"(1934), "Very Heaven" (1937). At that time he also published short stories and poems.
Before World War II Aldington moved to the USA where he published a lot of novels, poems, biographies.
His most famous novel is "Death of a Hero". In this novel the author tries to reproduce the tragedy of the "lost generation". He shows different sides of the life of English society during the war as well as in the post-war period. This book was one of the strongest anti-war novels of the time and it brought the author world fame. The novel tells about the life of a young English intellectual who suffers a great disappointment in everything around him. He commits suicide in the last battle of the war. War and its consequences, the problems of the post-war life, the menace of a new war- are the main themes of Aldington's works. Aldington believes in man, in the solidarity of the people, he protests against social evil, criticizes contemporary England.
John Boynon Priestley (1894-1984) was born in Bradford and was educated at Cambridge University. He was famous as a novelist, a critic and a dramatist. In total Priestley produced over 60 books and more than 40 plays. His wide-ranging interest in England and the English character and his appeal to "the man in the street" made him one of the most popular "middlebrow" authors of the 20th century. However, it was with his first novel "The Good Companions" (1929) that he achieved his first popular success. During the twenties Priestley wrote several volumes of criticism and several novels In 1931 Priestley turned to writing plays. The most well - known among them are:" Dangerous Corner" (1932), "I Have Been There Before" (1937), "Time and the Conways" (1937).
In 1937 Priestley became president of the London Pen club, and during World War II he was a successful broadcaster.
Post-War publications include novels "Festival at Fabridge" (1951), "Saturn Over the Water"(1961), "It's an Old Country"(1967) and numerous volumes of criticism, "The Art of the Dramatist" (1957), "Literature and Western Man" (1960). He also wrote his autobiography ("Martin Released" (1962), "Instead of the Trees" (1977).
Archibald Joseph Cronin (1896-1981) was born in Scotland In 1914 he began to study medicine at Glasgow University However, his studies were interrupted by World War I, when he served in the Navy as a surgeon. In 1919 he graduated from the University and went to India as ship’s surgeon on a liner. After that he worked in hospitals in different towns of Scotland. After his marriage in 1921 he started his practice in South Wales, where he got acquainted with the life of miners and came to sympathize with them. He studied hard to receive higher medical degrees. In 1924 he was appointed Medical Inspector of Mines and a year later he got his MD (Doctor of Medicine) degree. Then he started practice in the West End of London. In 1930 Cronin’s health broke down, and he was unable to practice medicine any longer. He decided to try his hand in literature. After the publication of his 1st novel “The Hatters Castle", which was a great success, Cronin became a writer. His most prominent works are: “The Stars Look Down" (1935), "The Citadel'" (1937). In "The Citadel" as in many novels of the later period, Cronin deals with the life and work of an intellectual (usually a medical man). He shows that the profession of a doctor, honourable and important as it is often regarded only as a means of making money. Andrew Manson, the main character of the novel, has to face the alternative: either to prosper at the expense of others or to do his best to help poor suffering people and so be doomed to poverty "The Citadel" is a social novel It is considered to be Cronin's masterpiece. The book describes different aspects of life in the first half of the 20th century, which the author knew well from his own experience.
The Forties
After World War II there appeared young writers like James Aldridge, who were full of optimism, and mature writers, who had passed through a certain crisis, but who worked to discover humanism with a positive set of values. Such a writer is Graham Greene. James Aldridge was born in 1918 in Australia in the family of an English writer and journalist. He spent his childhood in Australia and on the Isle of Man (near Scotland) in his mother's ancient house. He started to work at the age of 14 as a messenger boy in Melbourne, combining his work with studies. Moving over to England in 1939 he entered Oxford University. At the age of 21 he was sent to Finland as a war correspondent. In the years of World War II he was a war correspondent. He visited Norway, Greece, Egypt, Libya, lran, the Soviet Union. Aldridge's first novel "Signed with their Honour" appeared in 1942. It gives a vivid picture of a national liberation movement in Greece.
In his next novel "The Sea Eagle" (1944) he continues the tragic story of Greece in the days of World War II. Aldridge's best novel "The Diplomat" (1949) was awarded the Gold Medal of Peace in 1953 It was one of the most significant phenomena in English post-war literature. Aldridge is also the author of a number of talented stories. The best among them is "The Last Inch" (1957).
Henry Graham Greene (1904-1991) was born in Hertfordshire, he was educated at Oxford. He was a newspaper correspondent, an editor, a critic, a novelist, a dramatist, a short story writer.
During World War II he worked for the Foreign Office, mainly in Sierra Leone (1941-1943). A key event in Greene's life was his conversion to Roman Catholicism (1926). Graham Greene created a large number of novels of different genres, including thrillers ("The Man Within" (1929), "Stamboul Train" (1932), entertaining novels (" The Confidential Agent"(1939), "Loser Takes All" (1955), "Our Man in Havana" (1958),etc), Catholic novels (" The Power and the Glory" (1940), "The Heart of the Matter" (1948), "The Quiet American" (1955), "The Comedians"(1966), etc.)
Graham Greene also published several volumes of short stories: "The Basement Room and other Stories" (1935), "Nineteen Stories"(1947), "Twenty-One Stones"(1954), etc.
The Fifties
In the fifties there appeared a very interesting trend in literature, the followers of which were called "The Angry Young Men". The post-war changes had given a chance to a large number of young people from the more democratic layers of society to receive higher education at universities. But on graduating, these students found they had no prospects in life. Unemployment had increased after the war and besides that, English society continued to follow the old conservative rules of life and apparently did not need them No one was interested to learn what their ideas on life and society were. They felt deceived and became angry with everything and everybody. Outstanding writers of this trend were John Wain, Kingsley Amis, and the dramatist John Osborne.
John Osborue (b.1929) was the leader of the Angry Young Men. He is famous for his plays "Look Back in Anger"(1956), 'The Entertainer"(1957), “A Patriot For Me" (1966), “The Hotel In Amsterdam” (1968), "Watch Come Down" (19760 and others, and he also wrote his autobiography "A Better Class of Person" (1981).
The Sixties
Modern literature that began in the sixties saw a new type of criticism in the cultural life of Britain. This criticism was revealed in the "working-class" novel", as it was called. These novels deal with character coming from the working class, but they have a petty-bourgeois psychology. The best known writer of this trend is Alan Silitoe (b. 1928). He distinguished himself as a novelist and as a poet. His first novel was "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning'(1958). It brought the author success. It was followed by "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner"(I959),"The General"(1960), the trilogy "The Death of William Posters"(1965),"A Tree on Fire" (1967), and "The Flame of Life" (1974). His most recent novels are "The Lost Flying Boat"(1983), "Down from the Hill" (1984), "Life Goes On"(1985).

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