While there is growing interest in the postwar era, the cultural characteristics of the period after World War II and the period’s historical scope are still largely underdetermined. The purpose of this article is to offer a more nuanced use of the term postwar and insights into the cultural landscape of this enormously significant moment in the history of the West. To do so, it examines three major works of what is termed here the immediate postwar. These works are fundamentally dissimilar and yet, it is argued, share an emotional disposition. As shown, all three works exhibit a complex dialectical coupling of horror and anticipation. In other words, this article demonstrates that the cultural production of the postwar period (in the exact sense of the term) is characterized, on the one hand, by a sincere depiction of suffering and depravity but, on the other, by an intense engagement with questions about the moral and social future.

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