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Reaching Out To The Past: Memory In Contemporary British First World War Narratives

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Chapter Summary

The First World War currently enjoys considerable literary status in Britain. The past decade has seen a flourishing of novels that powerfully re-imagine the Great War, including Sebastian Faulks?s popular Birdsong, Pat Barker?s award-winning Regeneration trilogy and Another World, and Julian Barnes?s short story ?Evermore? (in Cross Channel). These new Great War stories are among the most successful recent works of British fiction. Despite their critical and commercial success, contemporary First World War narratives have often been castigated by historians, and sometimes critics, for perpetuating what has come to be called the ?Myth of the Great War,? a simplistic version of the war that emerged in the fictional and poetic writing of the Great War writers, including Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves. In Barnes?s and Barker?s narratives, the protagonists are obviously at variance with the collective and official memory embodied in war memorials.

Keywords: British fiction; collective memory; contemporary First World War narratives; Great War writers; Julian Barnes; official memory; Pat Barker



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