Among the great works of art written in the prison camps of the second world war are Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, Viktor Ullman’s The Emperor of Atlantis, Ezra Pound’s The Pisan Cantos and P. G. Wodehouse’s Joy in the Morning. Spot the odd one out. Robert McCrum, with some ingenuity, has managed to isolate some lines in Joy in the Morning, that incomparably sunny comedy, which may be inflected by Wodehouse’s difficult war. The Gestapo translates into a little sourness about village policemen, and that is about it.
McCrum yields to temptation, and describes Wodehouse’s war history as the defining episode of his career, but that is not right. Rather, the story of how the sunny and na