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Bomber County

The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War

Daniel Swift

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

In early June 1943, James Eric Swift, a pilot with the 83rd Squadron of the Royal Air Force, boarded his Lancaster bomber for a night raid on Münster and disappeared. Widespread aerial bombardment was to the Second World War what the trenches were to the First: a shocking and new form of warfare, wretched and unexpected, and carried out at a terrible scale of loss. Just as the trenches produced the most remarkable poetry of the First World War, so too did the bombing campaigns foster a haunting set of poems during the Second.

In researching the life of his grandfather, Daniel Swift became engrossed with the connections between air war and poetry. Ostensibly a narrative of the author’s search for his lost grandfather through military and civilian archives and in interviews conducted in the Netherlands, Germany, and England, Bomber County is also an examination of the relationship between the bombing campaigns of the Second World War and poetry, an investigation into the experience of bombing and being bombed, and a powerful reckoning with the morals and literature of a vanished moment.

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Bomber County
Chapter 1. Five Minutes after the Air Raid12 June 1943 
After the air raid, Virginia Woolf went for a walk. 'The greatest pleasure of town life in winter - rambling the streets of London,' she had written, a decade before. She called it 'street haunting', and in the essay of that title she gives instructions on how this should be done. 'The hour should be the evening and the season winter, for in winter the champagne brightness of the air and the sociability of the streets are grateful,' she wrote: 'The evening hour, too, gives us the irresponsibility which darkness and
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Daniel Swift

  • Daniel Swift has written for Bookforum, The New York Times Book Review, and The Times Literary Supplement.

  • Daniel Swift © Deborah Copaken Kogan
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    Bomber County

    The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War

    Daniel Swift

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    Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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