English Literature
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Second World War Fiction

Second World War Fiction

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A Guide to Second World War Fiction

Second World War Fiction, also known as WWII Fiction, is a literary genre that delves into the events of the Second World War, which occurred from 1939 to 1945. It encompasses various forms such as letters, diary entries, novels, and poetry, all based on the war's real-life experiences and events.

Content warning: This text may contain terms related to the Second World War that could be offensive or sensitive to some readers.

Defining Second World War Fiction

The Second World War originated from Adolf Hitler's invasion and occupation of Poland in 1939. As nations like France and Britain intervened to defend Poland against German rule, the war escalated, impacting people worldwide. Second World War Fiction is a genre that reflects on the actual occurrences and personal stories of those who served or were affected by the war. Writers use these elements to craft fictional narratives that provide insight into this turbulent period in history.

The Genre of Second World War Poetry

Second World War poetry is a subset of war poetry, specifically focused on the events of the Second World War. It often covers themes of violence, reflections on humanity, and sacrifices made during the war.

The Impact of the Second World War on English Poetry

The Second World War was a war that challenged democracy and humanity. The clash between totalitarianism and democracy was a central source of conflict during this period and was reflected in poetry as writers used their words to address the war's political and social climate.

Notable Authors of Second World War Fiction

Several renowned authors have made significant contributions to the genre of Second World War Fiction, including Elizabeth Bowen and John Boyne.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) was an Irish-British writer best known for her novel The Heat of the Day (1948). Set during the Blitz, a series of German bombings on Britain between 1940 and 1941, the book tells the story of a romance between Stella Rodney and Robert Kelway.

John Boyne (1971-present) is an Irish author known for his popular novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006), which was later adapted into a film in 2008. Set in Berlin during WWII, the book portrays the friendship between Bruno, the son of a Nazi officer, and Schmuel, a young Jewish boy imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Historical Fiction of the Second World War

Historical fiction of the Second World War is a sub-genre that draws heavily from real-life events of the war. These works incorporate fictional elements such as characters and events to tell a story that remains true to the attitudes, politics, and social climate of the time.

An excellent example of historical fiction of the Second World War is Thomas Keneally's novel Schindler's Ark (1982). This book is based on the remarkable true story of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party who saved over 1,000 Jews from persecution during the Holocaust. Keneally uses fictional characters to represent real people involved in the events and realistic scenarios that could have happened during that time.

In Conclusion

The Second World War was a catastrophic global event that has had a lasting impact on literature and continues to inspire writers to this day. Second World War Fiction allows readers to gain a unique perspective on this critical time, providing a deeper understanding of its effects on individuals, communities, and the world.

In 1983, Thomas Keneally's novel Schindler's Ark (1982) received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. It was highly acclaimed and adapted into a film by director Steven Spielberg titled 'Schindler's List' (1993), which achieved immense commercial success.

Notable Second World War Fiction Novels

The Book Thief (2005) by Markus Zusak stands out as his most significant literary work to date. The story is narrated through the lens of Death, personified in the novel.

Inspirational Resistance: A Poetic and Fictional Retelling of Life During the Second World War

The life of Liesel Meminger is a captivating story of bravery and resilience during the reign of the Nazis in Germany. As she witnesses the horrors of the regime, Meminger's courage shines through as she and her foster parents shelter a Jewish man, defying the Nazis' hatred. Simultaneously, Meminger discovers her own form of resistance by collecting and hiding books, which were often burned by the Nazis, and even writing her own novel to challenge their ideology. Amidst the chaos of war, Meminger finds solace in the power of words and the strength they hold to combat oppressive forces. Her story spans from the bombing of her neighborhood to her final days in Sydney, Australia, where Death, depicted as a comforting companion in the novel, meets her once again to return her long-lost manuscript.

The use of Death as the storyteller symbolizes the omnipresence of death during the war - a constant reminder of the devastating consequences of the conflict. As death looms over the characters, so does the constant threat of danger and loss. This is a common theme throughout war literature, as seen in the well-known novel, The Winds of War (1971) by Herman Wouk. Set in the midst of the Second World War, the story follows American naval commander Victor Henry, who uncovers the Nazis' plans to invade and occupy Poland. As he navigates the dangers of war, his son Byron also becomes involved and the novel delves into the impact of war on their personal relationships.

Aside from novels, war poetry also serves as a powerful medium for reflecting the brutal realities and consequences of war. One such example is 'Soliloquy in an Air-Raid' (1941) by Roy Fuller. Inspired by the Blitz, a series of bombings on London during the Second World War, Fuller's poem captures the destruction and trauma caused by war from the perspective of soldiers and civilians alike. He implores readers to show compassion towards those affected by the violence, recognizing the immense toll it takes on one's mental health. Despite the harsh realities, Fuller, as a poet, continues to seek beauty and hope amidst the destruction, acknowledging the need to "reach for the wind" despite the chaos that surrounds him.

Lastly, Sidney Keyes' 'The War Poet' (1943) depicts the stark contrast between the peaceful life of a poet and the harsh realities of a soldier's experience. As an English poet serving in the British army, Keyes highlights the loss of innocence and creativity in the face of war, as seen in the lines "I am the man who looked for peace and found/ My own eyes barbed." The use of "found" at the end of each line creates a sense of anticipation and uncertainty, reflecting the poet's fear of how war would change him and those around him.

In conclusion, Second World War literature, whether in the form of fiction or poetry, serves as a poignant reminder of the effects of war on individuals and society as a whole. It inspires us to resist oppression and to find strength and hope amidst the darkness, ultimately reflecting the human spirit's enduring resilience.The impact of war is undeniable and often leaves a lasting mark on those involved. This is evident in Second World War fiction, where authors explore the traumatic experiences and events of the war through various forms of literature. This genre encompasses the Holocaust, wartime atrocities, air raids, battles, soldier's experiences, and the aftermath of trauma. One powerful example is Jane Yolen's 1988 novel, 'The Devil's Arithmetic', which delves into the psychological effects of the Holocaust on protagonist Hannah Stern.The question of which book stands as the best Second World War fiction is highly debated. However, two novels that frequently rank among the top are Markus Zusak's 'The Book Thief' and Thomas Keneally's 'Schindler's Ark'. Both use powerful storytelling to depict the devastating impact of the war and its aftermath.Some key takeaways about Second World War fiction include its focus on the events and experiences of the war, which took place from 1939 to 1945, and its use of various literary forms, such as letters, diaries, novels, and poetry. The genre also heavily influenced English poetry, as seen through themes of humanity, democracy, and totalitarianism. Notable authors in this genre include Elizabeth Bowen and John Boyne. Historical fiction of the Second World War aims to stay true to the attitudes and social and political environment of the time, often drawing inspiration from real-life events. A prime example of a powerful war poem is Sidney Keyes' 1943 piece, 'War Poet', which captures the struggles of soldiers and the impact of war on individuals.In conclusion, Second World War fiction serves as a poignant commentary on the devastating effects of war on individuals and society. It reminds us to show compassion and empathy towards those who have experienced trauma and to never forget the lessons learned from this dark chapter in history. Through the art of crafting fiction from real-life events, authors bring attention to important issues and keep the memories of the war alive.

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