Saturday, January 03, 2015

As The 100th Anniversary Of The First Year Of World War I (Remember The War To End All Wars) Continues ... Some Remembrances-Writers’ Corner  

In say 1912, 1913, hell, even the beginning of 1914, the first few months anyway, before the war clouds got a full head of steam in the summer they all profusely professed their unmitigated horror at the thought of war, thought of the old way of doing business in the world. Yes the artists of every school but the Cubist/Fauvists/Futurists and  Surrealists or those who would come to speak for those movements, those who saw the disjointedness of modern industrial society and put the pieces to paint, sculptors who put twisted pieces of metal juxtaposed to each other saw that building a mighty machine from which you had to run created many problems; writers of serious history books proving that, according to their Whiggish theory of progress,  humankind had moved beyond war as an instrument of policy and the diplomats and high and mighty would put the brakes on in time, not realizing that they were all squabbling cousins; writers of serious and not so serious novels drenched in platitudes and hidden gabezo love affairs put paid to that notion in their sweet nothing words that man and woman had too much to do, too much sex to harness to denigrate themselves by crying the warrior’s cry and by having half-virgin, neat trick, maidens strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets; musicians whose muse spoke of delicate tempos and sweet muted violin concertos, not the stress and strife of the tattoos of war marches with their tinny conceits; and poets, ah, those constricted poets who bleed the moon of its amber swearing, swearing on a stack of seven sealed bibles, that they would go to the hells before touching the hair of another man. They all professed loudly (and those few who did not profess, could not profess because they were happily getting their blood rising, kept their own consul until the summer), that come the war drums they would resist the siren call, would stick to their Whiggish, Futurist, Constructionist, Cubist worlds and blast the war-makers to hell in quotes, words, chords, clanged metal, and pretty pastels. They would stay the course.  

And then the war drums intensified, the people, their clients, patrons and buyers, cried out their lusts and they, they made of ordinary human clay as it turned out, poets, artists, sculptors, writers, serious and not, musicians went to the trenches to die deathless deaths in their thousands for, well, for humankind, of course, their always fate  ….            

Wartime prose

Prose, particularly in the form of novels and memoirs, is often a vehicle for sustained reflection on an event long after it has taken place. Many accounts of the First World War, however, were written during the conflict. Nothing of Importance was penned shortly after the events it describes, long before the war reached its conclusion. Sometimes diaries, in their raw, unmediated form found an audience. Arthur Graeme West’s record of his service as an officer on the Western Front was published posthumously as The Diary of a Dead Officer in 1918. Despite his voluntary enlistment, the diary records West’s growing contempt for army life and his conversion to pacifism.

Men, Women, and Guns

Men, Women, and Guns
Under the pseudonym ‘Sapper’, Herman Cyril McNeile wrote short stories about his experiences of war.
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However, most popular works published during the war offered optimistic, patriotic portrayals. Ian Hay, in his novel The First Hundred Thousand (1915), provided a light-hearted and humorous account of life at the front. Writers like Escott Lynn in his adventure novels, and ‘Sapper’, in his various short stories, depicted war as a fulfilling and exciting endeavour.
But if these authors dealt their characters clubs and diamonds, the French author Henri Barbusse dealt his characters spades and hearts. In his novel Le Feu (Under Fire), published in French in 1916, translated into English in 1917), Barbusse provided a vehement denunciation of militarism. Known for his brutal realism, Barbusse captured in stark, graphic language the appalling horror of mechanical warfare. In this account, soldiers are not ‘adventurers or warriors’; rather they are ‘civilians uprooted’, who ‘await the signal for death or murder’.

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