Saturday, July 14, 2007

British Literary Periodicals of World War II & Aftermath

This "critical history" written by professor A.T. Tolley, and published by Canada's Golden Dog Press, provides an essential introduction to the poorly documented literary magazines founded in the teeth of World War II. "Against all expectations of cultural collapse with the coming of the war in 1939, there emerged a great growth of serious interest in the arts accompanied by the appearance of a large number of literary periodicals, some of which attained an astounding circulation."

Some of these magazines are difficult to obtain now, and Tolley has provided his readers with a unique guide to the editors and contributors of a lost and almost forgotten culture. Compare the widespread awareness and understanding of the Beats with the almost total lack of recognition accorded our own literary heritage from this period.

Tolley is to be congratulated on the clarity of his presentation and his careful attention to detail, although I frequently found myself longing for more quotations from works by the contributors that do not directly relate to the production of the magazines. Henry Miller's "Reflections on Writing" in Horizon, or his "Obscenity and the Law of Reflection" , or Lawrence Durrell's "Elegy on the Closing of the French Brothels" both from Now, for example.

A particular strenth of British Literary Periodicals is that Tolley explores the interplay between the literary and radical political allegiances of the magazines, although it is a pity that he ignores the artistic contribution - magazines like Now featured illustrations by artists, like Georges Masson, Their avant garde interests complimenting and underpinning those of the literary contributors - Masson surrealism matched Andre Breton's text "The colours of Liberty" (an extract from Arcane 17 translated by Simon Watson Taylor).

Available in the UK from I.D. Iderich: