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Posted May 6, 2016 by

Books Related to the First World War

Posted by guillermo maynez on 18/2/2014, 13:32:38

During the last couple of months I have been engaged in heavy reading about WWI, of which the first centenary will be commemorated around the world this year. That absurd catastrophe has been for many years a special area of interest for me. I feel personally offended by the negligence, incompetence, stupidity and lust for war which ended my beloved XIXth Century, the century I grew up in thanks to many readings. It was never the same after the war, and so I have tried to understand it, both through history and fiction. I started by reading several non-fiction books about the origins of the war, a very frustrating and fascinating subject which makes you really addicted to it, rereading the same episodes time and again, from different points of view. It is a truly morbid exercise. Then I’ll move to fiction based on WWI experiences, and this is where ReadLit comes into the picture. First, in case anyone is interested in this subject, I will list the history books:

  1. The Origins of World War I. Joachim Remak. A brief, synthetic analysis by a great professor. Thesis: a diplomatic crisis like many others, badly managed.
  1. The Guns of August. Barbara Tuchman. Written like a thriller, this classic puts you there inside every cabinet meeting and then into the battlefields of the Western Front during the first month of the war. Absorbing.
  1. 1913. Charles Emerson. A tour around several cities of the world in 1913, explaining what life was like in each of them. Not only the European capitals, but also Jerusalem, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Melbourne and others.
  1. Europe’s Last Summer. David Fromkin. Also brief and didactic, excellent. Thesis: Germany and Austria-Hungary deliberately provoked the war. Disturbing.
  1. The War that Ended Peace. Margaret Mac Millan. Long, complex and multi-layered work that somehow brings together the previous 4. Fascinating, deep, nuanced. Thesis: war was not inevitable, but choices became increasingly and rapidly narrow, until many powerful forces brought together the disaster.

Next message continues, now about fiction.

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Posted by guillermo maynez on 18/2/2014, 14:03:49, in reply to “First World War”

The I’ll move into fiction, starting with two books:

  1. “Storm of Steel”, by Ernst Junger
  2. “The Good Soldier Svejk: and his fortunes in the World War”, by Jaroslav Hasek

Of course I have read many others, such as “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Remarque, Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms” and short stories, “A Very Long Engagement” by Japrisot, etc. I have also read extensively on British WWI Poetry (Owen, Thomas, Rosenberg, Sassoon, etc.)

Any particular recommendations of novels, short stories, poems, about or located in WWI??

good-soldier-schweik

Posted by Sterling on 18/2/2014, 21:35:23, in reply to “Re: First World War”

Somehow I feel as if it’s not “cricket” to recommend works that you have not actually read. However, Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy is sitting on my shelf and high on my list. The three novels are Regeneration, The Eye in the Door, and the Booker-winning The Ghost Road.

They come highly recommended.

P.S. Sassoon and Owen are characters in the novels.

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Posted by Steven on 19/2/2014, 9:15:08, in reply to “Re: First World War”

I’ve read all of the books you mention here except for A Very Long Engagement. Storm of Steel could be classified as non-fiction, but the veracity of Junger’s memoirs is questionable.

Books I’ve read and would recommend include:

Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford – A series of four novels dealing mostly with the breakdown of social barriers and the end of the “gentleman.”

Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker – Mostly set in England and focusing on what is now called PTSD, but also dealing with homosexuality. As Sterling noted, Siegfried Sassoon is a major character.

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West – Another novel dealing with war’s aftermath and the effect of stress.

I’m currently reading Under Fire by Henri Barbusse. This is a French anti-war novel published by a veteran while the war was still going on. It was considered the premier novel of the war until the appearance of All Quiet on the Western Front.

Other books on my list to read in the coming months or years:

Her Privates We by Frederic Manning

The Wars by Timothy Findley

A Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

The Case of Sergeant Grischa by Arnold Zweig

A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

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Posted by Steven on 19/2/2014, 9:01:45, in reply to “First World War”

I plan to do a limited amount of WWI reading, mostly fiction. The only one on your NF list I’ve read is The Guns of August, and that was many years ago (not long after the 50th anniversary, in fact). I would also recommend:

The First World War by John Keegan — a good basic military history of the war.

Battle for the Bundu: The First World War in East Africa by Charles Miller — an entertaining and fascinating history of a theater of war quite different from the trenches of Europe

(I’ll post fiction suggestions separately.)

Posted by guillermo maynezEmail User on 19/2/2014, 15:24:04, in reply to “Re: First World War”

Thank you all for your recommendations. In fact, I have the first volume of Pat Barker’s Trilogy, “Regeneration”, on my shelves, as well as “The Return of the Soldier”, by Rebecca West. I will read them both soon. I also have read John Keegan’s book, but I’ll reread it in a “beautiful” edition, “The Illustrated History of WWI”. I’ll check also the rest of the recommendations.

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Posted by Lale on 23/2/2014, 9:28:14, in reply to “First World War”

: 5. The War that Ended Peace. Margaret Mac Millan.

: Long, complex and multi-layered work that somehow

: brings together the previous 4. Fascinating, deep,

: nuanced. Thesis: war was not inevitable, but choices

: became increasingly and rapidly narrow, until many

: powerful forces brought together the disaster.

By the same author (she is Canadian) Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World is highly recommended by one of my professors.

Lale

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