Chaos. Slaughter. War surrounding our island

Alice Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Four months after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War on 18 July 1936, Virginia Woolf reflected in her diary on 10 November: “I am tired this morning: too much strain & racing yesterday. The Daily Worker article. Madrid not fallen. Chaos. Slaughter. War surrounding our island” (Diary 5: 32). As Italy and Germany joined Franco’s Nationalist forces in their attack on the Republican-held Spanish capital, Woolf struggled to write her first and only contribution to the Daily Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The article she produced, “Why Art To-Day Follows Politics,” was, according to Anne Olivier Bell, prompted by a request from Elizabeth Watson—the painter, Communist, and “charming and persuasive...friend of Quentin Bell”—that Woolf write an essay in support of the Artists International Association (D5: 30 n4). More commonly known as “The Artist and Politics,” the title under which this text appeared in Leonard Woolf’s later editions of his wife’s essays, “Why Art To-Day Follows Politics” accrues a new range of historical and political resonances when resituated in the context of its original publication in the Daily Worker on 14 December 1936. This commission was fundamentally tied in Woolf’s mind, as the above diary quotation illustrates, to both the ongoing war in Spain and the escalating threat of international conflict across Europe at this time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-19
Number of pages2
JournalVirginia Woolf Miscellany
Issue number76
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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