"All 20th-century literature specialists, particularly those in French, German, and English literatures, will find Cloonan's study eminently relevant. . . . Well-documented, very informative, quite insightful, and even entertaining!"--Pierre Verdaguer, University of Maryland
In a major reevaluation of how World War II affected the writing of literature in France and Germany, William Cloonan argues that many established writers (Thomas Mann, Ernst Jünger, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre) were unsuccessful in their attempts to write about the war precisely because they refused to confront the ways in which this conflict was so radically different from earlier bloodbaths. In particular, atrocities such as the Nazis’ Final Solution, the atomic devastation of Japan, and the bombings of civilian populations called into question the moral and intellectual framework that had shaped Western thinking; throughout Europe, the heritage of the Enlightenment seemed to collapse.
Combining literary history and textual analyses, Cloonan turns to efforts in France and Germany by younger artists to rethink the approach to literature in a postwar context, devoting attention to Group 47 (Germany) and the New Novelists (France).
At the center of his study are detailed analyses of novels by Céline, Günter Grass, Siegfried Lenz, Claude Simon, and Christa Wolf. Cloonan explains how each writer opened new perspectives on World War II and in so doing contributed to the establishment of a postwar literary consciousness.
Cloonan argues, in conclusion, that the novel remains a valuable tool for exploring social reality precisely because it remains capable of addressing an audience that extends beyond the confines of the academic community.
William Cloonan is professor of French at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He is the author of Michel Tournier and Racine's Theater: The Politics of Love and has published numerous articles in The French Review, Renascence, Symposium, and The New Boston Review.
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"an engaging book for anyone interested in post-World War II literature." - Dalhousie French Studies Dalhousie French Studies
"An eminently readable study whose breadth and directness will be profitable for students and scholars alike." - L'Esprit Createur L'Esprit Createur