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This article is taken from PN Review 26, Volume 8 Number 6, July - August 1982.

Beyond the Railheads of Reason Jem Poster

'AT the beginning of In the Thirties,' remarked Edward Upward in an interview given in the mid-1960s, not long after the publication of the novel, 'the hero comes to communism as a kind of religious conversion, and this represents my own attitude. I came to it not so much through consciousness of the political situation as through despair.' (The Review 11/12, p. 67). The statement is a personal one; but as one examines the nature of political belief as it figures in the imaginative literature of the 1930s, the words seem to take on a more general significance. Upward's retrospective perception of the religious element involved in his movement towards political engagement, his characterizing of that engagement as the result not of growth from a solid basis but of a desperate need to fill a disquieting void, offer a useful means of access not merely to the work of this particular writer but, further, to an extensive and significant area of the literature of the decade. It is not of course possible to provide an all-inclusive definition of the quality of belief underlying the politically orientated literature of the 1930s as a whole; but obviously the charting of certain clearly perceptible tendencies, selective as the process must inevitably be, can help to fill out our understanding of that extraordinarily complex period of literary and social history.

The religious nature of Upward's commitment is clearly suggested by a passage in Stephen Spender's autobiography, World Within World: describing the ...

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