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Great War & Modern Memory (09) by Fussell, Paul [Hardcover (2009)] Hardcover – 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Sterling, Hardcover(2009) (2009)
  • ASIN: B008CMAD64
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I am the kind of history and war buff that loves to read straightforward war books: books about battles, generals, soldiers, tactics, blunders, strategies, weapons and so on. Having read a review of Fussell's book a few years ago and thinking it was another "straightforward" book about World War One, I added it to my Christmas list. I received it as a gift this year (along with about 6 other books, all novels) and I decided to browse it for fifteen minutes before diving into one of the novels. What struck me at first was that it was NOT a straightforward telling of WWI, and that if I had looked at the book in a bookstore I probably would have thought it "boring" and set it back on the shelf. You see, in this book there are no detailed accounts of the Somme or in-depth analysis of Ypres.
However, having book in hand, I was immediately drawn into Fussell's examination and analysis of literature, essays, poetry, letters home, theater and culture on the front and in England during WWI in order to paint a picture of the British soldiers' experience during WWI. It is a fascinating book on many levels and examines war, in this instance The Great War, from a completely different aspect than I have ever seen before. Fussell illuminates much more clearly what happened to the boys/men in the trenches than anything I have ever read before. For instance, has any other book captured so vividly the oppressiveness of being in a trench for days when all you see is a sliver of sky and the horrific irony of morning and evening stand-to's? I don't think I have read a book that made me sympathize and empathize with the WWI soldier more than this book. It is a deeply moving and touching book and really drives home the futility of war.
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Format: Paperback
Centuries don't begin on time; the Twentieth didn't begin on January 1, 1900 (or 1901). Literary critic Paul Fussell located our century's birth in the appalling trenches of World War I in his insightful and thoroughly documented book, The Great War and Modern Memory.

It is hard to overpraise this book. I read the paperback in the late 1980s and reread it again last week. It is first and foremost a World War I British intellectual (literary) history but much, much more. Fussell is at home with the British literary heritage, which he shares with the poets and writers of the early 20th century. He covers in detail the memoirs of Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, Robert Graves (of I, Claudius fame) and the poetry of Wilfred Owen, along with many others.

We return to 1914, when there was no radio, no TV, no movies to speak of, and when the populace had implicit faith in their press, their King and "progress." The central irony of this book was that the population rushed to support the war in order to support these 19th century ideals, ideals which would be shattered in the war that gave birth to the twentieth century. Fussell documents how World War I gave us the standardized form, the wristwatch, daylight savings time, civilian censorship and bureaucratic euphemism--and for the first time, despair that technology was driving civilization into perpetual war.

So The Great War and Modern Memory is not just a literary anthology; it has elements of political and social history and even (in the chapter titled "Soldier Boys" and for lack of a better term) what would come to be called Gay Studies. It is no accident that Fussell was a soldier himself (in World War II) and his sympathies lie with the common "grunt"; he does not mince words.
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Format: Paperback
Once upon a time, I was actually a witness in a civil trial. I was called upon to explain, as an editor of an employee manual, my use of the word "draft," as in, "This employee manual is a draft." The word "Draft" meant one thing to me ("welcoming improvements") and another thing entirely to my employer, one of the parties in the suit (to him it meant, "I don't have to follow the parts that are inconvenient, like due process"). The judge blasted me exasperatedly, "Well, doesn't the word mean exactly what it says?" I answered him, "Your honor, no word ever means exactly what it says---connotation changes all the time."

The subject of the connotations of words recalls one of my favorite books of all time, Paul Fussell's "The Great War and Modrn Memory." The thesis of this masterwork suggests that the modern world began on July 1, 1916, on a trench-riddled field near the River Somme, where Sir Douglas Haig, commander of British forces, sent 110,000 men against a German force one-seventh that size in "the largest engagement fought since the beginnings of civilization" (as Fussell puts it). On this one day, 60,000 men were killed or wounded, "the record so far." Fussell argues that the world changed enormously after the Somme affair (the surviving soldiers reserved earthier epithets for the campaign).

Fussell's use of the word "record," with its echoes of sporting statistics, is indicative of the innocence with which British soldiers entered into warfare.
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