134 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps still the premiere war memoir in English
GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT is about considerably more than just Graves's experiences in the trenches in WW I, but it is that section of the book that makes this memoir stand apart from most others. That, and the exceptional honesty of the book, which manages to be tell-all without being gossipy. There is also a sense of renunciation; instead of nostalgic longing to recover the...
Published on October 27, 2002 by Robert Moore
73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pay Attention to the Editions, There are some notable differences
There were two editions of this Robert Graves Classic: "Goodbye to All That" made by the author during his lifetime. The first came out in the 20s and was raw and popular and controversial. The second came out in the 50s and was somewhat bowdlerized by the author, because several of the people involved were still alive. His nephew oversaw an edition in 1995 which...
Published on November 30, 2011 by Robert O'Matic
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134 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps still the premiere war memoir in English,
GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT is about considerably more than just Graves's experiences in the trenches in WW I, but it is that section of the book that makes this memoir stand apart from most others. That, and the exceptional honesty of the book, which manages to be tell-all without being gossipy. There is also a sense of renunciation; instead of nostalgic longing to recover the past as one find in other memoirs, Graves is anxious to put the past aside for good, to have done with it entirely.
The best parts of the book are those dealing with his dreadful time in school, he time serving in the war, and his various friendships. Some of those friendships sneak up on you. He writes at length of a literature professor at school named George Mallory who profoundly molded his reading and literary sensibilities. He writes for page after page about "George," but it isn't until he begin a chapter with the words, "George Mallory did something better than lend me books: he too me climbing on Snowdon in the school vacation." It wasn't until that moment that I realized that George Mallory the literature instructor was THAT George Mallory, the famous mountain climber who attempted Everest (and perhaps conquered it) "because it is there." George becomes one of Graves's greatest friends, and even serves as best man in his wedding. The other friendship I found fascinating, perhaps because the man himself remains one of the most mystifying characters of the 20th century, was T. E. Lawrence. As Lawrence removed himself from the public eye more and more in the 1920s and 1930s, being in 1920 perhaps one of the most famous individuals in the British Empire, he changed personas from Lawrence of Arabia to Private Shaw, reenlisting in the Army as an auto mechanic. Graves remained a good friend of his throughout the entire period, and wrote one of the first serious biographies of Lawrence. I enjoyed one passage where he is in Lawrence's quarters at (I think) Cambridge, eyeing the manuscript of Lawrence's own war memoirs, what would eventually become THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM (Graves would be one of a select few to receive a copy of the first privately printed edition, which remains one of the great published books of the 20th century, with expensively reproduced drawings and illustrations--subsequent editions remove most of the illustrations).
But the heart of the book is the account of his experiences at the front. Although this war produced a disproportionate amount of great literature, I personally believe that the two greatest literary monuments to the Great War (unless one also includes Lawrence's THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM) are Graves's memoir and the poetry of Wilfrid Owen. The sections of the book dealing with the war seem to alternate between the startling everyday to the nightmarish. In many sections the mood seems to be straight out of Dante's PURGATORIO, at the worst his INFERNO. But throughout, the story is carried forward by Graves's relentlessly honest pen. Although Graves's wrote an absolutely stunning number of books, in particular the two Claudius novels, this fine volume just might be his greatest work.
73 of 74 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pay Attention to the Editions, There are some notable differences,
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There were two editions of this Robert Graves Classic: "Goodbye to All That" made by the author during his lifetime. The first came out in the 20s and was raw and popular and controversial. The second came out in the 50s and was somewhat bowdlerized by the author, because several of the people involved were still alive. His nephew oversaw an edition in 1995 which explained some of the reasons for the changed second edition and restored some of the original material. If you pay attention to details, find out which edition you are getting. I have downrated this edition because it is the second. I purchased the Richard Perceval Graves version off of Amazon about a year ago.
If this is too nitpicky for you, the second edition is still very good, it is missing some interesting material however, particularly the opening poem by Laura Riding and Graves' interesting dedication to her at the end of the book.
72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving report on the end of an era,
I spotted this remarkable book on ... Top 100 Non-Fiction Books of the Century list. In "Good-bye to All That, " the British poet Robert Graves (1895-1985), best known to American readers as the author of the novel of ancient Rome, "I Claudius," writes the autobiography of his youth, justifiably famous for its eloquent but straight-forward depiction of the horrors of WWI, during which Graves spent years in the trenches of France as an army captain.
More than the war, however, Graves' topic is the passing of an era: the class-ridden and naïve culture of the Edwardian upper classes, a culture did not survive the war. Graves came from a landed family and received a classic boarding-school education. Even in the trenches officers like Graves had personal servants and took offense when they had to dine with officers of `the wrong sort' (promoted from the lower classes).
Graves' narrative itself barely survives the end of the war; the post-war chapters seem listless and shell-shocked, emotionally detached. The battles he survived are written about with precision, gravity, and emotional impact; but Graves' marriage and the birth of his children seem like newspaper reports. Surprisingly, he doesn't even talk of his poetry much. This, surely, is not a defect of the book but a genuine reflection of his feelings at the time: After the War, nothing meant much to him.
Graves' literary style is very matter-of-fact--the opposite of the imagistic, adjective-driven language one might expect of a poet. Instead, he had a gift for the right details: in only a sentence or two, by careful description, he can perfectly describe a fellow-soldier or give the exact sense of `being there' in battle. The book is a remarkable achievement worth reading even for those who may be glad the old days were left behind.
49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Graves in retrospect......,
By A Customer
This is Robert Graves' tell all autobiography, or at least the "revised second edition" which doesn't quite tell all. At the time of writing Graves was only 33 yet already had about 30 publications to his name, mostly poetry collections & essays. He had rubbed shoulders with such writers as Edward Marsh, Robert Frost, Siegfried Sasson, T.E. Lawrence, Ezra Pound & Edith Sitwell. Graves had served as a Royal Welsh Fusiler for almost the entire duration of WW1 & been severely wounded, even pronounced dead, before being demobilized. After the war Graves went on to receive his B Litt. degree from Oxford & eventually found a position as the Professor of English Literature at the Royal Egyptian University in Cairo. All this & numerous other stories, events & anecdote are given here in full detail.
Goodbye To All That is most famous for it's graphic & realistic depiction of life in the trenches of WW1. Graves goes into all the details of his military experience. We aren't spared a single battle or a single death. He captures the horror & awe of the war with a roughness that made the book one of the most popular written accounts of WW1. We are presented with scenes of atrocities, suicides, murders & heroic rescues one after another until we can almost feel the emotional change that Graves himself felt as he went from innocent schoolboy to professional soldier. The physical & emotional damage caused by this change are themes that Graves would return to again & again for the remainder of his life.
Oddly enough the man who is most famous as a romantic poet talks very little of his poetry in his autobiography. Despite having several volumes of poetry published by this time, Graves turns away from this & spends more time dealing with the war & problems both on the front & at home in England. Poetry, romance & even love seemed to play a very little part in Graves' life during these years. He mentions his 1st wife Nancy only near the end of the book & offers us only a one dimensional image of her as the devout feminist whom he loved but whom he probably shouldn't have married. Laura Riding doesn't appear in the book at all despite the fact that Graves had known her for 3 years by the time he wrote Goodbye. Other writers or poets who do turn up tend to be there only fleetingly to provide a particular anecdote or to justify Graves' opinion of them. Graves seldom goes into any great depth about their works or their personalities.
Overall, Goodbye To All That is a odd book that sits on the fence between a typical war book & a biography of a literary man. It can't be placed neatly into either category & this is what makes it such interesting reading for the fans of either type. Graves stands out as one of the few literary men who could display his intelligence & education even while dishing out the most brutal scenes of warfare.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A cool farewell to illusion,
I first became aware of Goodbye to All That when I was reading Resurrection by Pat Barker. Barker's WWI historical novel has Robert Grave, Seigfried Sassoon, WHR Rivers, and Wilfred Owens as characters in a British army hospital. Graves is a minor character, but Sassoon and Rivers are the main characters. My curiosity about Robert Grave's impressions of his WWI experiences lead me to Goodbye to All That.
By the time Graves had written this book, he was 35 and was living with Laura Riding, his literary muse and lover. Yet he does not mention her in the book. Rather he concentrates on the disasterous British school system that he endured as a child and young man, his expereinces in WWI, and ends with the downfall of his first marriage to Nancy Nicholson (the mother of his 4 children) and his teaching position in Egypt at the University of Cairo. Nancy was a socialist and feminist and eventually she drove Graves away. This is so odd considering that Graves was totally sympathetic to matriarchial power structures and devoted much of his writing nad poetry to the White Goddess. There is no White Goddess to be found in these pages however, which is so odd considering his fascination with this topic throughout his poetic and literary career. T.E. Lawrence was a friend of Graves and gave Graves the copywrite to four chapters of Pillars of Wisdom for publication in the USA. This allowed Graves additional income to support his writing career as well as a large family.
The sections on WWI are the highlights of the book. Robert Graves enlisted at age 19 and became an officer due to his social class. He is seriously wounded and his family is told he is dead but he rises from this condition to regain his health. He meets the poet Siefried Sassoon during this convalescence. He also meets Dr. WHR Rivers, the famous neurologist, psychologist,and anthropologist. Rivers introduces Graves to the concepts of the relationships between dreams, myths, poems, and creative imagination, an area of interst for Graves all his life. In the passages on WWI, Graves cooly relates a world wide nightmare and catastrophy. His cool wit and irony distance the reader somewhat from the horror and terror. He describes mutilated bodies with a dry factual style. This cool matter of fact chronological presentation is damning in the extreme of the European leadership that lead the world into this bloody stalemate.
For a hot blooded version of WWI I would recommend Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got his Gun in addition to Grave's cool and analytical matter-of-fact tone. I would also recommend Tuchman's Guns of August for a chronoloical explanation of the war. I would also recommend Pat Barker's WWI trilogy: Resurrection, Eye in the Door, and The Ghost Road.
Grave's factual clear headed narrative reveals the illogical disaster of WWI that killed one in three of Grave's school mates. Graves relates how upper class officers brought servants to war yet as the war progresses a whole generation of males, both the working class and the aristocracy of England, are killed. WWI shattered the class system of the 18th century and cleared the ground for the modern era.
What is Graves saying "goodbye" to? He is saying goodbye to his youth, his first marriage to an early feminist, to old Europe and its rigid class structure, but most of all to illusion.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful and Ironic Caricatures of Human Folly,
"Good-Bye to All That" is one of the most imminently readable autobiographies I have yet come across. Generally, I do not particularly care for the autobiographical genre of writing, nor, based on my public school and university history textbooks, would I have professed much interest in history. Graves' book, however, changes "all that." Two aspects of the book have endeared it to me:
First, Graves' writing style is replete with droll, dry wit. His use of irony to paint word pictures in his readers' minds is masterful. His use of language is inspiring to every occasional writer who longs for such skill. His ability to see through the façades of academic reputation in both public school and university, of nationalistic patriotism, of formally organized religion, and of military tradition overcomes popular perception to show the ignorant, delusional, self-serving nature of such things. Never are his unveilings heavy-handed, though. On the contrary, Graves depicts events and presents examples in descriptions that he refers to as "caricatures," but it would be a dull reader indeed who fails to perceive the ironies implicit in these entertaining recitations.
Second, Graves' autobiography is revealing of many historical topics that escape adequate coverage in most textbooks. The reader comes away with a much improved understanding of early 20th century British society, education, and culture. Because most of the book deals with Graves' experiences in the trench warfare of World War I, the reader comes to visualize the barbarity and insanity of war more acutely than he may have hitherto done. Then there are tidbits that generally escape the formal history textbooks altogether-the antipathy between British troops and French citizenry that led some Britons to the conclusion that their country had aligned itself with the wrong side in the war; the imprisonment of British residents of German ancestry resulting from war paranoia (foreshadowing America's treatment of its citizens of Japanese ancestry during the next world war); British soldiers' opinion of American "support" as American artillery shells showed themselves frequently to be duds or, worse, to fall short and explode in the British trenches rather than the German. Graves presents us history as he saw it first hand, and we are spell bound by his power as a storyteller.
The book also has, from my perspective, two significant weaknesses. First, my command of American English did not always stand me in good stead when confronted by some words and phrases of peculiarly colloquial British usage. This edition of the book does include a short "Glossary for non-British readers," but it needs to be about twice as long for some of us. The second weakness, more of a disappointment, really, is that the narrative stops when Graves is only thirty-three. Even though Graves later appended a brief epilogue, the reader wishes that he had continued his story for many more years, for we come to feel a friendship for this man and are enjoying sitting at his knee, listening to him recount his insightful, entertaining, and thought-provoking observations on life-and we do not want the story to end.
"Good-Bye to All That" is well worth the reading to any number of people-aspiring writers (note Graves' style), lovers of poetry (understand the life behind the poetry), and students of history (learn from it or repeat it eternally). In fact, I cannot conceive of any literate person who would not find Graves' autobiographical tale both enjoyable and instructive.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential WWI reading,
Good-bye to All That is a funny, moving, and often infuriating piece of work. If you're reading this to get a clear sense of an officer's experience on the front during the First World War, then you're missing the point. By using farce, rumors, anecdotes, and all kinds of "documents" like newspaper articles, inventories, even soldier's songs, Graves evokes the confusion and the absurdity of twentieth century warfare. There is no clarity here, and the distinctions which usually help us to understand events, such as good v. evil, heroism v. cowardice, enemy v. foe, are conspicuously absent. Again and again, Graves compels the reader to make his own judgements about the narrative.
At the time that Good-bye to All That was published, Graves's fellow writer-combatants, Edmund Blunden and Siegfried Sassoon, were so annoyed by the book that they annotated an advance copy, "correcting" the errors and inaccuracies which they found in Graves's accounts of battle. But I think they were missing the point. Graves is less concerned with recording the facts of the war than in evoking the state of mind which both produced the war and was produced by the war. For this reason, Good-bye to All That serves as an important document of the war experience-- and it's also compulsively readable. Highly recommended.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly lyrical and candid war memoir.,
I found this book to be one of the most haunting accounts of war I have ever read. I appreciated it all the more after I'd finished reading Siefried Sassoon's semi-fictional account of his time on the Western Front. Not that Sassoon's book isn't excellent in its own way, it's just that Graves' book seemed to resonate with me on many levels, and left a lasting impression. If I was to advise anyone on which to read, I would tell them to read both, but read Graves first... A truly excellent portrayal of the frustraions and horrors of war.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Warning! Heavily Edited Version,
This is the edition that Graves edited to all Jesus hell! I've seen excerpts of the unedited version and THAT is the book to aim for, though you have to find it through an antiquarian book peddler and the cheapest edition I could find cost $300. Rats. But hopefully perhaps an electronic edition of the original will somehow find its' way to the internet one day.
What is left is still an excellent read. Concerning the up to that date unprecedented rate of slaughter and the technological changes of modern warfare that made it so, his way is understatement which I believe made it that much more impactful. I like this man's mind - I like him. It would have been very interesting to corner him by a fire with a bottle of good sherry and to let him expound on the Latin or WWI or poetry, or perhaps Hebrew mythology.
Speaking of Hebrew mythology, he wrote a wonderful wonderful book on it, a treatise really on the book of Genesis. If you have any interest whatsover in religion, etymology or anthropology, please read this book - it is wonderful! Just google or "amazon" Graves and Hebrew myths and you will find it.
I have his "White Goddess", but have not read it yet.
26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously lacking,
Unfortunatly, I have to disagree with most of the other reviewers. As suggested in the title I found "Goodbye to all that" curiously unsatisfying. Maybe this is the case because I read the edited edition which gives the 1929, the 1959 edition and comments by Grave's contemporaries. Again and again these comments correct Graves who freely admited of fictionalizing events so as to make the book more interesting and to get more money out of the whole business. If he wanted to write a fictional account he clearly should not have called the book "an autobiography"! This deeply angered fellow war-writers such as Sassoon, who also accused Graves of overplaying his role in getting Sassoon a medical board. With this background the book looses much of its fascination. Rather contemptible is also Grave's treatment of the colonial troops which shows a good deal of racism.
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Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves (Paperback - September 28, 1995)
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