World War One inspired the British to short, shocked poetry, perhaps because chivalry was one of the first casualties. The literary monuments of World War II and the end of empire, however, are extensive prose sequences: Waugh’s Sword of Honour Trilogy (1952–61), Anthony Burgess’s Malayan Trilogy (1956–59), Olivia Manning’s Fortunes of War six-pack (1960–65 and 1977–80), Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet (1965–75), and J. G. Farrell’s thematically linked Empire Trilogy (1970–78). Again, the stylistic correlation between subject and form is suggestive.

The British fought a multi-theater war in a spirit of prosaic disillusion. The 1945 election ...