Adam Thorpe and the impossibility of (not) writing about the First World War

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This article explores three novels by British contemporary novelist Adam Thorpe, which it situates in the context of a renaissance of rewriting and re-remembering the First World War in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The article discusses three novels: Thorpe’s debut novel Ulverton (1992), which includes a chapter about the experience of the First World War; Nineteen Twenty-One (2001), a full-length treatment of the immediate aftermath of the war; and Hodd (2009), in which the war enters by way of fictional footnotes to a fictional translation of a medieval Latin manuscript. It suggest that Thorpe’s writing about the First World War consciously acknowledges and interrogates the simultaneous impossibility and compulsion to write about war. Thorpe’s work offers a complex exploration of literature’s contribution to memory building processes, acknowledging both the limitations of fictional representations of war and the enduring power of fiction to re-imagine the war for successive new generations of readers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-431
JournalCritique - Studies in Contemporary Fiction
Issue number4
Early online date14 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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