Friday, November 6, 2009

World War I Classics

November 11, 2009 , the 11th day of the 11th month, is the 91st anniversary of the armistice that ended The Great War (World War I). Referred to often as “the war to end all wars,” (unfortunately we now know this to be a bit optimistic) the books written to help men and women come to grips with and attempt to understand the horror – trenches, barbed wire, mud – loss and death that were a part of that (and all) wars are still classics and worthy to be read. Here are four recommended titles.

All Quiet on the Western Front , a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, was published in 1929, and was the author’s way of coming to terms with the war and his participation in it. The war in the trenches as described from the German viewpoint vividly demonstrates that the tragedy and horror of war has no nationality.

“We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces. The first bomb, the first explosion, burst in our hearts. We are cut off from activity, from striving, from progress. We believe in such things no longer, we believe in war.” Chapter 5 – AQotWF

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, was also published in 1929. It is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his love for a beautiful English nurse. The love affair between Lt. Henry and Catherine Barkley is set amidst the inexorable sweep of war and battle.

Three Soldiers (1921) by John Dos Passos is one of the key American war novels of the First World War, and remains a classic of the realist war novel genre. In a letter to a friend written in 1918, Dos Passos says “[War], no matter where, consisted of boredom, slavery to all sorts of military stupidities.…It was no more than an enormous, tragic digression in people’s lives which brought death to the intellect, to art, to everything that mattered.” These are the themes that run through Three Soldiers, a book that still stands as a testament to the dehumanizing effects of war.

A Son at the Front by Edith Wharton (1922) conveys the initial excitement of war and the subsequent disillusionment, boredom and manipulation occuring away from the front lines. Wharton explores the effect of war on those left behind with her customary powerful prose. Meg



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