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Goddamn This War! Hardcover – August 3, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. French artist Tardi revisits World War I, the subject matter of his phenomenal It Was the War of the Trenches. He takes a new approach to his subject matter, and his art has evolved in the 15 years since his earlier masterpiece, but the details of the conflict remain grim. Tardi proceeds chronologically, showing how Europe marched into a pointless, brutal war—a conflict in which millions died to no great purpose, leaving nothing but mud and ruins across great swaths of the continent. Tardi's palate becomes increasingly depleted as his story develops, reflecting the dire circumstances of the hapless conscripted soldiers manning the front lines. As hope and sense drain from the world, so too does color, with the art fading to a grim monochrome. Also included is an illustrated chronology of World War I, provided by historian Verney. Tardi's skills as an artist are rivaled only by his skill as a writer; he vividly conveys the horrors and sheer waste of the Great War. This new translation allows English-speakers to discover Tardi's remarkable work. (Aug.)
*Starred Review* Tardi’s It Was the War of the Trenches was released in the U.S. in 2010, but it’s been 15 years since its completion, a gap of time that proves Tardi’s passion and anger over WWI has not dampened in the least. This spiritual sequel uses an unnamed Parisian soldier’s hardboiled, heartbroken narration (there is no spoken dialogue) to take the reader through six years of hopelessly indistinguishable trenches, explosions, corpses, mud, and maggots, all of it depicted via three panoramic panels per page rendered in smoky grays and foggy blues—with blood accents (“pieces of human flesh settled like red snowflakes”). Multiple encounters with the same German soldier provide a ghost of a story line, but primarily this carries the wandering tone of a shell-shocked young man writing an unfocused letter home, swinging from pure pining to furious condemnation: “It was always the same old song—to the tune of human bones being tossed into the meat grinder.” The pages are strewn with images of dead bodies and midexplosion terrors, but the unforgettable centerpiece is two wordless pages of disfigured postwar faces. Verney’s closing illustrated chronology of French involvement in the war provides a firm base to this tale of an Everysoldier who acknowledges from the start, “I’d make a perfect fatality.” --Daniel Kraus
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Top Customer Reviews
It tells the story of an unnamed soldier from the start to the end of the war. Like most of narratives I've read of soldiers at the time, it suffers from the inertia that was a by-product of the war's greater narrative. Once dug-in, there wasn't much movement. I think of it as a continent-wide siege.
The art is successful. The authors use the palate to really set the mood - dropping color off in the trenches to show the gray drabness of that reality. It looks good too, without being overly gruesome. There is one particularly haunting picture that makes the cover and is even 'better' in context, the soldier with the medal pinned to his pillow.
Finally, what is particularly important in the book is that the story of the one soldier is generalized, there is a Europe-centric history of the war for the last 30 pages or so. This year-by-year chronology of the larger events gives more context to the singular experience that the art section of the book conveys. I enjoyed reading the history almost as much as I did reading the individualized story in the drawn section.
Most baby boomers remember the rehashing of WWII ad nauseam as they grew up. The Battle of the Bulge, D Day, and Pearl Harbor etc. were things that were discussed and shown in movie theaters and on TV. What had been completely lost in this study of the Second World War was that the causes of the greatest war the world has ever seen emanated in the Great War of 1914/1918. This great slaughter is well told by Jacques Tardi's graphic depiction of Goddamn This War!
This book gives very graphic detail as to what transpired in WWI. The pictures are haunting as Tardi shows what the war was really all about. Not only are the pictures telling a story of horror, it is the thoughts of a French soldier who tells us of what is transpiring around him. In this narrative detail we learn that all common soldiers were just fodder thrown against each other to satisfy the aristocracy of all sides in this horrific war.
In fact as Tardi counts down the years in this depiction of WWI we learn the thoughts of this French soldier as it slowly occurs to him that the Germans he is fighting are very much like him. It dawns on him that all the common soldiers belong to the brotherhood and that they are all being led by the elitist aristocracy who are only interested in maintaining their wealth. The French soldier realizes that the German "Fritz" whom he is fighting is more like him than his illustrious elitist leaders.
Tardi shows to all the frustrations and the foibles of fighting a war which by 1918 all have forgotten why the war was fought. To make matters worse the peace designed by the infamous Treaty of Versailles in and of itself bore the seeds of discontent in Germany and in fact brought us WWII. And so it goes! This books shows to all the futility and wastefulness of war!
Goddamn this War! (Putain de Guerre for you French readers), is an even better work. The First World War is presented from the French side, with multiple forays into the German perspective. Tardi's art is vibrant and horrific, and the extent of his research is apparent in the minute details of uniforms and weapons. The bleak tone of the book is made apparent even as the color scheme shifts from the green plains of the early war to the dark, grey, and muddy trenches they were reduced to. The story follows a French soldier who lives through the entire war (though he gets out far from unscathed). His negative perspective on the entire event is a juxtaposition to the acts of the French generals and officers who send their men into the meat grinder.
This book had me captivated from beginning to end, with its art and its words. It's brilliance makes me wonder why there are not more war comics produced today, as they offer a setting that both horrifies and educates.
The visuals are well researched and powerful, while the writing hits relentlessly on a grimly ironic note. The main character is disillusioned from the first moment of the war, so he doesn't go through the same changes of those around him from enthusiasm to grim consent to disillusion. The side characters blend into the bleak background, such that when a character is named as having died you sometimes aren't sure who he's talking about. Tardi tends to focus is story on only the darkest elements of the war, making it more one-note than many of the novels and memoirs on which he's basing his work. (He provides an excellent bibliography of books and movies which influenced him.) After the story itself, there's also an extended section detailing the history of the war itself. This is good, but necessarily brief.
Overall, I found this interesting, but I wish that the storytelling had been as compelling as the visuals.
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