WO I en de grote Britse fantasy-schrijvers

Het artikel van de week is (overtuigend) ‘From the trenches to Mordor and back: World War I and Britisch Fantasy Literature’.

Daarin gaat Iskander Rehman op zoek naar hoe de boeken van Britse fantasy-grootheden als J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis en A.A. Milne beïnvloed zijn door de tijdsgeest. En vooral ook door hun ervaringen als Eerste Wereldoorlog-veteranen:

Britain’s most famed 20th-century fantasy writers came of age in a complex and interstitial era.

Zowel nationaal als internationaal broeide het:

With the rise of other great powers such as the United States and — more menacingly — Imperial Germany, there was already a crepuscular quality to certain discussions of international affairs, and a sense that the British Empire’s power was beginning to wane. Meanwhile, domestic debates were increasingly rancorous, centered on transformational and contentious issues such as female suffrage and workers’ rights. There was widespread concern over the long-term societal and environmental impact of mass mechanization and industrialization. Edwardian literature — and fantasy literature in particular — reflected these anxieties, along with the collective sentiment that those living through the early years of the 20th century were entering a risk-laden and unpredictable age.

Zijn WO I-ervaringen veranderden A.A. Milne’s kijk op het leven compleet:

Milne, afflicted with post-traumatic stress, became a militant pacifist. With the gentle, unthreatening universe of Winnie the Pooh, Milne chose the path of soothing escapism, providing — as one commentator notes — a war-weary and grieving nation with a “much needed solace in a time of great sadness, a connection to the intimate wonder of childhood, and a specifically British sensibility.”

Bij C.S. Lewis en Tolkien was de reactie anders:

Lewis and Tolkien may have witnessed industrialized warfare in all its dark, Boschian murderousness during World War I, but neither ever doubted the justice of England’s fight for freedom — whether against the armies of the Kaiser in their youth, or against the jackbooted legions of Nazi Germany in World War II. As Lewis was to declare in a famous speech entitled “Why I am not a Pacifist,” sometimes the prospect of armed struggle was necessary, for “the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well we can.”

Aanrader!