Andrea Levy’s “World-Themed” Fiction: Curating the World Wars in "Small Island" and “Uriah’s War"


  • Elif Öztabak-Avcı Middle East Technical University


Andrea Levy, Small Island, Uriah's War, the World Wars, World Literature


The ways in which Small Island deals with the political, economic, and socio-cultural changes that occurred in British society in the aftermath of World War II have been widely discussed. Furthermore, many studies have emphasized the significant cultural work of the novel in rendering visible the contributions of the British Empire’s black citizens in the Second World War. Yet, the question of how Levy approaches the imperialist and nationalist rhetoric around the World Wars has not received much attention. This essay aims to explore this question by reading Small Island, specifically the scenes of encounter between white American GIs and black British soldiers, together with “Uriah’s War,” a short story Levy wrote in the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. The story takes place mostly on the Middle Eastern Front of World War I and gives room to a West Indian soldier’s encounter with an Ottoman soldier, whom he calls “the savage Turk.” In the light of Rebecca Walkowitz’s Born Translated (2015), it will be argued that both Small Island and “Uriah’s War” can be classified as “world-themed” works of fiction in terms of their treatment of the World Wars from within temporal and spatial comparative frameworks and that they offer a transnational and anti-imperialist reading of alliances as well as animosities that emerged during and in the aftermath of the World Wars.

Author Biography

Elif Öztabak-Avcı, Middle East Technical University

Elif Öztabak-Avcı is Associate Professor of Literary Studies in the Department of Foreign Language Education at Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. She holds a PhD in Literary Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research areas include contemporary British fiction, black British fiction, postcolonial theory and narrative theory. She has authored articles in her interest areas published in national and international books and journals.