The Great War and Modern Memory New Edition
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"One of the best nonfiction works I've ever read. I'm a huge fan of virtually everything Fussell has ever done, but this unique book, which uses literature and social history to examine World War I, may be his best. Unflinching."--James Gray, The Week
"Literary and historical materials, in themselves not unfamiliar, are brought together in a probing, sympathetic, and finally illuminating fashion. It is difficult to think of a scholarly work in recent years that has more deeply engaged the reader at both the intellectual and emotional level." --The New Republic
"Skillful, compassionate.... An important contribution to our understanding of how we came to make World War I part of our minds." --Frank Kermode, The New York Times Book Review
"A learned book that is also bright and sensitive." --The New Yorker
"An original and brilliant piece of cultural history and one of the most deeply moving books I have read in a long time." --Lionel Trilling
"Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory introduced an entirely new and creative way of writing both about war and the literature it generates. It has been a profound influence on historians and literary critics alike." --John Kegan
About the Author
Paul Fussell was an American cultural and literary historian and critic. He is the author of over 20 works and winner of the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award.
- ASIN : 0199971951
- Publisher : Oxford University Press; New edition (June 12, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 414 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780199971954
- ISBN-13 : 978-0199971954
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Dimensions : 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #91,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Fussell describes the impact of the war on the culture and psychology of the 20th century, illustrating what, for me, were jaw-dropping insights, drawing on the memoirs and artistic expressions of the participants. I have been pondering it ever since reading it last year and it has generated many productive conversations with others. A page-turner and absolute must read. It will transform your view of modern history.
First, while the book is mostly about the war in literature and memory, Fussell captures and shows the actual day-to-day experience of the soldiers in the trenches more vividly than anything else I have read. He was in combat in Europe World War II, so he knew things in visceral terms that non- combatants don't know (and, as he points out, very often did not and do not want to know). Also, while much of his research was literary, the rest of it was about as immediate as you can get: he spent three months in a room at the Imperial War Museum, reading the Museum's (unsorted) archive of papers of the British troops in World War I. In so doing, he says, "For three months I lived in the trenches with the British soldiery, accompanying them on raids on the German trenches across the way, consoling myself with their rum, pursuing and crunching lice in my trouser seams, and affecting British phlegm as they jumped the bags and dashed directly into machine gun fire."
The day to day experience he conveys is horrible, claustrophobic, and increasingly pointless. Soldiers on both sides began to believe that the war would never end; "the war", indeed, begins to seem a great pitiless machine that chews up rank after rank of men, and spits out corpses. This is not a new thought -- no one who has read much about the War is going to believe that trench life was fun. But Fussell conveys more strongly than anyone else I have read just how awful, and endless, it was. He intended his description to make war look horrible, and it does.
Second, Fussell's most important literary observation, it seems to me, is less about literature per se than about a way of thinking -- the modern way of thinking, if you will. He goes through key themes as they appeared in the writings of several major authors of the War. What emerges overall, however, is a sense that for many the ability to believe in ideals was killed in the war, shifting the postwar world to an attitude of pessimism and irony. Many have criticized Fussell's focus on a small group of British writers, but I think his point is still valid. The First World War made it impossible for thinking people to believe in human progress, or in the basic goodness of humankind. In the century since then, it has been too easy to remain disillusioned.
This is a terrific book, for those whose interests are primarily historical, as well as for those who have literary inclinations. Read it.
3 stars might be a little harsh, but this is Amazon, not a college bookstore. If you're an avid student of WWI, you don't need my review to know you should read this book.
Top reviews from other countries
Ok it's well referenced, but the writing style isn't engaging me at all.