A Vital Little BLAST : The War Number as a Key to Wyndham Lewis’s Thought
A hundred years after its publication, the second and final edition of BLAST continues to be viewed as the poor relation, or at least the quiet relation, to its brashly confident predecessor. The editor himself no doubt suspected that this would be the case when he noted that the magazine ‘[found] itself surrounded by a multitude of other Blasts of all sizes and descriptions’. Then again, a wry recognition of comparative scale can be turned into a declaration of self-assurance when it is written by Wyndham Lewis: even as he indicates that his radical publication might now be drowned out by the tumult of the world war that had broken out only a month after its first issue, he offers a tacit assertion that its blunt, explosive, monosyllabic title – loaded with the metaphorical payload of Vorticist energy and prophetic intent – had been the right one for the age. The second issue is known as the ‘War Number’, of course, and it was not content to simply be lost to the noise and trauma of the conflict raging across the channel: it was also engaged, crucially and complicatedly, with that conflict. The distinct nature of the second BLAST, and much of its subsequent reputation, are inextricably bound in with its primary function as a device for calibrating the cultural phenomenon of Vorticism – or perhaps, more accurately, the cultural phenomenon of Lewis – with the cultural phenomenon of the war.