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The Great War and modern memory
Fussell, Paul
Adult Nonfiction PR478.E8 F8 2000

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Steve G said:
RIP today to the WWII vet who wrote my favorite nonfiction book, The Great War and Modern Memory. I can’t recommend highly enough this sensitive, reflective analysis on the literature of the First World War. It continually inspired me through my prior career as an editor of military books. Simply put, it tells how World War I change our language and the way we think. Fussell argues that the unprecedented violence of trench warfare, the introduction of the machine gun and tank, the tangled barbed wire stretching as far as the eye can see, the broken bodies left unburied for months or even years, and gas attacks revealed a kind of fraud behind terms like "duty" and "honor," particularly in their use to sell war to the people as a romantic endeavor. The masses were finally euphoric upon its declaration (jingoistic nationalism has a way of doing that to people). Men on all sides were shamed by their women into enlisting, although the causes and goals were always vague and unclear. The authors and poets among the hardened survivors came out of it writing with a more honest cynicism, appropriate for the mass-produced gore and senselessness they had just witnessed in places like Flanders and Verdun. The Great War and Modern Memory is, to me, the greatest nonfiction book of the last half century.
posted May 25, 2012 at 12:34AM
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