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Telling It Like It Wasn'tThe Counterfactual Imagination in History and Fiction$
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Catherine Gallagher

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226512389

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226512556.001.0001

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The Fictions of Nazi Britain

The Fictions of Nazi Britain

(p.237) Chapter Six The Fictions of Nazi Britain
Telling It Like It Wasn't

Catherine Gallagher

University of Chicago Press

This chapter analyzes British narrative fictions (primarily but not exclusively novels) that are set in a world where Nazi Germany triumphed over Britain. The fictions often depict the destruction of the British state, and their plots tend to turn on the possibility of its resurrection by what is left of the nation: the people. They thus explore the distinction between a state and its people, often by focusing their view of the alternative world through the civil servants of the former state who would have been retained by the Germans: nurses, policemen, justices of the peace, TV producers. Since the continuance of the nation under such conditions would have relied on the people’s memories of a shared past, the plots often turn (as in Robert Harris’s Fatherland) on the Nazi’s suppression of historical knowledge and the protagonists’ attempts to retrieve it. The chapter traces these fictions from their earliest wartime instances (when writers like George Orwell warned against a rift between the state and the people that might subvert the war effort) to their later twentieth-century attempts to provide alternate-world (and usually dystopian) perspectives on the massive changes the British nation underwent in the second half of the twentieth century.

Keywords:   alternate-history novels, Robert Harris, Holocaust denial, Holocaust remembrance, George Orwell, World War II counterfactuals

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