The overlooked masterpieces of 1922

In literature the response to the challenges and opportunities of the early 20th Century was Modernism – the rejection of traditional linear storytelling and the use of more challenging styles to reflect the new world – and its annus mirabilis is usually seen as 1922. It was an apt time for breakthroughs: the same year saw, among other world-defining events, the appointment of Joseph Stalin as General Secretary of the Communist Party in Russia, the first treatment of diabetes using insulin, and the creation of the BBC. In literary terms, this was the year stamped at one end by James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (first published 100 years ago today, on 2 February; Joyce’s 40th birthday) and at the other by TS Eliot’s book-length poem The Waste Land, published in October. These were books like nothing quite seen before, in their style, scale and ambition: in England the novel in this era was dominated by social realists writing traditional narratives, and poetry by the so-called Georgian movement of pastoral poems in sing-song rhythms. –John Self, BBC

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