Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Literature in the UK after WWII is also difficult to generalize. Maybe the only clear group is the “Angry Young Men”, a group of dramatists and novelists (among them Harold Pinter, John Osborne, Kingsley Amis, Allan Sillitoe and Tom Stoppard) who in the 1950s expressed their discontent with traditional English society in anti-establishment works that have also been described as “Kitchen Sink Realism” (with its audiovisual correspondence in film—the British New Wave and Free Cinema—and television—Coronation Street, Eastenders). George Orwell (1903-1950) was also a left-wing writer who criticized social injustice in his novels, like Animal Farm (1945) and Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1949). Doris Lessing (1919-), a recent Nobel Prize, has written both left-wing radical novels and science fiction. Graham Greene (1904-1991) was both a popular writer and well received by the critics. He wrote “Catholic” novels, like The Power and the Glory (1949) and espionage novels like The Third Man (1950, after the script for the film) and The Human Factor (1978).

Other more experimental novelists are Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957), who wrote Under the Volcano (1947) a modernist novel with complex symbolism; John Fowles (1926-2005), author of The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969), which is frequently mentioned as an example of a metafictional post-modern novel; Iris Murdoch (1919-1999), who wrote novels about sexual relationships and the power of the unconscious (Under the Net, 1954); and Anthony Burgess (1917-1993), A Clockwork Orange (1962).

Some of the most acclaimed turn-of-the-century English novelists include Ian McEwan (1948-, Amsterdam, Saturday), Martin Amis (1949-) and Kazuo Ishiguro (1954-, born in Japan, The Remains of the Day). Two Scottish novelists worth mentioning are Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting, 1994) and William Boyd (Armadillo, 1998).

Two important recent poets are Philip Larkin (1922-1985) and Ted Hughes (1930-1998), Poet Laureate and Sylvia Plath’s husband, “The Jaguar”.

The field of popular literature has been extremely fruitful in England during the twentieth century:
- Agatha Christie (1890-1976): detective novels
- Ian Fleming (1908-1964): James Bond novels
- J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973): Lord of the Rings
- C.S. Lewis(1898-1963): The Chronicles of Narnia
- Sea Adventure: Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander
- Historical novels. Robert Graves (1895-1985), I, Claudius novels. Ken Follet (1949-) The Pillars of the Earth (1989)
- Confessional writing: Helen Fielding’s Bridget’s Jones’s Diary, Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity (1995), Fever Pitch (1992)
- In the field of Children’s literature, English literature has provided the world with the most famous books and characters: Enid Blyton (1897-1968), the fifth most translated author worldwide (The Famous Five series, Malory Towers; J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter); Roald Dahl (1916-1990), born in Wales to Norwegian parents. James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Revolting Rhymes. Unsentimental, dark humour. Also stories for adults, like Tales of the Unexpected.


  1. thanks so much for posting this, I'm from Poland and I couldn't find a valid information about british postwar literature so big thanks! : )

  2. Actually, Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard are usually classified as belonging to the Theater of the Absurd (as in Martin Esslin's famous piece of criticism bearing the same title) like Becket, Camus etc.. Their work is hardly 'kitchen sink realism'. Dialogue's are colloquial usually, but they systematically use non sequiturs, nonsense etc. for comic and poetic purposes.

    1. You're absolutely right. This is the problem of condensing too much information in very little space. It is true that both Pinter and Stoppard (more the former than the latter) were related to the Angry Young Men movement, at least at the beginning, but most of their plays are much closer to the Theater of the Absurd.