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Gossip From The Forest Paperback – May 24, 1985

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Editorial Reviews

Review

As in Keneally's portrait of Joan of Arc, Blood Red, Sister Rose (1974), this treatment of a historical event - the Armistice negotiations which ended World War I - explores the roots of personal and political power. The railroad car in the forest of Compiegne, where the meetings between the allies and a hastily assembled group of Germans took place, was appropriately shunted to a siding - away from the thousands who died and the millions who would live by what was decided there. The delegates bring their playthings into the crowded car: Marshall Foch his self-sanctified conviction that wars are won by "moral force"; aristocrats of both sides their cherished hierarchies; and Matthias Erzberger, who Finds himself spokesman for the Germans, his conscience - a luxury for which he will never be forgiven at home. While the negotiators indulge in "mystical exercises" or bargain for ships and sealing wax, some dream (Foch, of mute soldiers hiding in the forest; Erzberger of "pale soldiers. . . seeping waters") while others grumble fearfully about socialism and tell tall tales. There was, for example, the story of a suicidal horse. . . "What rider (now) would be safe?" The air becomes stale and close and (in Keneally's one unfounded fantasy) a couple make love on the negotiating table: "It was insufferable to think that in such a little space. . . eight men (could) weave a scab over that pit of corpses four years deep." With dramatic dialogue insets, this is a ruthless pursuit of those leaders who, as Foch remembers Joan of Arc, can make us "swallow things whole." (Kirkus Reviews) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Thomas Keneally is renowned as the author of Schindler's List, which was awarded the Booker Prize and made into an Academy Award-winning film by Steven Spielberg. His latest work is The Great Shame, a narrative history of the Irish diaspora. He is author of more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction and is one of Australia's leading literary figures. He lives in Sydney.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (May 24, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156364697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156364690
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,997,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. S. Wilkerson on April 30, 2012
Format: Paperback
Gossip from the Forest focuses on the signing of the armistice which ended WWI and provides an interpretation of the character of Matthias Erzberger, the lead diplomat for Germany. The other characters involved in the signing are primarily used by Keneally to create Erzberger's character and provide the historical perspective. As Keneally interprets the situation, the threat of Bolshevism was so immediate that the Germans had little choice but to the end the war as quickly as possible. Significantly, Erzberger is instructed by the Kaiser and then by the President of the Republic, Friedrich Ebert, to sign the armistice. Erzberger, a commoner who represented the peace movement in the Reichstag was a relatively minor figure, but was sufficiently out of the mainstream military tradition that he could be blamed for the harsh terms of the armistice, the Treaty of Versailles, and the failures of the Weimar Republic. He is labeled a November Criminal and is viewed as the central figure who had "stabbed the military," and, by extension, Germany in the back, the myth the Nazis used to gain power and rebuild the military. The myth of the "stab in the back" blamed the Jews and Communists as well, giving the Nazis the necessary targets for their campaigns of hate and violence. Erzberger is assassinated in 1921 and the assassins not brought to trial until after WWII.
Keneally's account depicts Erzberger as a conscientious politician whose greatest concern is avoiding the total breakdown of government and a Bolshevik takeover of Germany and the possibility of civil war. While negotiations of the armistice are underway, their world undergoes drastic change: the Kaiser is deposed, the militarized government falls, and a Republic is formed, averting the feared takeover.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By givbatam3 on October 7, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In 1945, when the Second World War ended with the surrender of Germany and Japan, everyone remembered how the First World War Armistice was signed by a group of low-level politicians and functionaries, so the top German and Japanese commanders were made to sign the instruments of surrender, so that their military leaders couldn't claim that they "weren't really defeated but were betrayed", as was the case by the Germans in 1918. After the Armistice was signed, Field Marshal Hindenburg who was the nominal commander-in-chief claimed that Germany had been "stabbed in the back" and that its retreating, but undefeated army was forced to capitulate for no reason other than betrayal by disloyal elements in the home front.

This fine book deals with members of the German Armistice delegation and how they confronted the unbearably painful responsibility of agreeing in the name of the German Reich to the practical disarming of Germany, including the destruction of its Navy and Air Force and weakening of its economic base.

As interesting as the book is, reading it raises a lot of unanswered questions, for example,

exactly how was it that it came to be that such an undistinguished group of men were chosen for this job. Delegation Chief Matthias Erzberger was an important politician, but as a member of the liberal wing of the Catholic Zentrum (Center) party, he was not involved in the actual decision making of war policy. The other men were basically unknown to the public. There are two possible answers: (1) the book states that outgoing liberal Chancellor Prince Max von Baden wanted the delegation led by a politician who supported the Reichstag's 1917 peace declaration which called for reasonable

peace terms.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By madhatter on March 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
Twenty years after the first time, I just reread 'Gossip'. Forgot what a stunning piece of work this is. Although little known, this book is by far his best work...way better than the more popular 'Schindler's Ark".

Keneally does a great job of adding depth to the chief characters in the German delegation. The sense of despair drips from each page as these men come to understand they are there to sign their own death warrants. Although the book also explores the Allied side, it is four Huns that bring the raw emotion to this book.

Incredible story telling.
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