chapter  3
30 Pages

Affliction and Sanctuary

ByWilliam Cederwell

This chapter explores how the stories of Anna Kavan in I am Lazarus and Henry Green's novel Back illustrate war's debilitating intrusion into consciousness, and how the disturbed point of view could lead to new, sharper insights into home-front London life. James Hanley's No Directions is a good example of London-set literature taking a different path. Literature may have helped articulate the trauma caused by war, but it also showed how affliction could offer some kind of bitter sanctuary. The London County Council's bomb damage maps captured this impression of random and disorientating change. Clem's experience of the blitz in No Directions, his sensory delight in destruction, is another way in which the atmosphere of home-front London veers towards the irrational and deranged. Instead, London is a place of uncertain and often inscrutable individuals whose afflictions and ailments release them from the idealised wartime city, the strong group, the robust collective.