The Great War and Modern Memory

Recommended by Will Self, Wade Davis, and 2 others. See all reviews

Ranked #16 in World War I, Ranked #19 in Poetry Writingsee more rankings.

The year 2000 marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most original and gripping volumes ever written about the First World War. Fussell illuminates a war that changed a generation and revolutionised the way we see the world. He explores the British experience on the western Front from 1914 to 1918, focusing on the various literary means by which it has been remembered, conventionalized and mythologized. It is also about the literary dimensions of the experience itself. Fussell supplies contexts, both actual and literary, for writers who have most effectively memorialized the Great War as an... more

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Will Self Fussell’s book brilliantly articulates many views which were inchoate in me before I read it. It’s ostensibly literary criticism, but it does much more than that. His thesis is the juxtaposition of the great powers marching off in August 1914, with their banners and tootling – “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” – and the reality of war. They expected a swift victory by Christmas, but got bogged down on the Western front in the worst kind of mechanised slaughter that the world has ever seen. The reversal between those two states is what created the ironic cast of the 20th century. I think... (Source)

Wade Davis This is the perfect book to end on. Every page is a revelation. It’s for anyone who wants to understand this notion that the war was the fulcrum of modernity. It was a turning point. The entire idea of the 19th century – which was an idea of progress, optimism and the notion that you can always better yourself economically, spiritually, socially – was crushed on the fields of Flanders. And in the wake of the war we encounter the nihilism and chaos of the 20th century. That war indeed gave birth to people like Hitler, Mao and Stalin and everything else that tormented, and what Churchill... (Source)

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