This article looks at the bombing of Coventry, its representation in Larkin's poetry and prose, and argues that it gave the young Larkin a psychological opportunity to annul his childhood and perform a ritual burying of his father's influence over him as a consequence of Sydney Larkin's fascist sympathies before the war.
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Something to do with violenceA long way back(‘Love Again’)
On 14 November 1940, 30,000 incendiaries (in 881 canisters) and 1200–1600 bombs containing 503 tons of high explosive fell on Coventry, killing 663, injuring 1256 (863 seriously), completely destroying two thirds of the medieval city centre, and liberally plastering the rest of the city, putting over a third of the factories out of action. Tom Harrisson, the founder of Mass Observation, turned up to report for the BBC on the psychical damage done to the people:The small size of the place makes people feel that the only thing they can do is get out of it altogether. The dislocation is so total in the town that people feel that the town is killed. ‘Coventry is finished’ and ‘Coventry is dead’ were the key phrases of Friday's talk.1
A fourteen-year-old girl, evacuated from the Coventry and Warwickshire Hospital the morning of the 15th, told Norman Longmate, in his book on the raid:As the days went by with no words of my parents I began to think they were all dead. After about a week one afternoon I looked up the ward and saw dad coming through the door. … He told me he had walked to Coventry to find me but no one knew anything about us. On the way he had met the mass funeral of people killed. He had stood and watched not knowing if I was one of them. But by chance someone had told him a few of us had been taken to Stratford and as a last resort he had gone there. … It was very strange later to find I had been presumed dead and to see my own name on the mortuary list outside the Council House.2
Coventry was Larkin's home town, the city his father was...