Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Historian Michael Neiberg Recommends Some WWI Fiction

Editor's Comment: Back when I was the editor for the Journal of the World War One Historical Association, I asked prolific military historian Michael Neiberg to contribute an article on the long-term impact of the war. He included some thoughts on the literature of the war.  Here are his comments and a list of his favorites. MH

French Author Henri Barbusse

We all know about the poets of the First World War, but for some odd reason the novelists and memoirists of the war have, with the exception of Ernst Jünger and Erich Maria Remarque, faded into relative obscurity. There are, however, a number of wonderful novels, many of them based on personal experience, that are well worth the time. The best of the group is probably Frederick Manning’s Her Privates We (published in the U.S. under the title The Middle Parts of Fortune), a Cockney slang-filled story of British soldiers on the Somme. Henri Barbusse’s Le Feu, now in a new English translation with the title Under Firewas a sensational bestseller when published in 1916 and remains poignant today. Liam O’Flaherty’s The Return of the Brute deals with Irish soldiers stuck in an impossible situation. One of my favorites remains Jaroslav Hašek’s hilarious take on the ineptitude of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in The Good Soldier Švejk

The Books Can Be Ordered Here


  1. O’Flaherty is new to me - thank you.

  2. What about "Points of Honor, Short Stories of the Great War" (1925) by Thomas Boyd who wrote the well-regarded "Through the Wheat"? My great-uncle Jerome Marks served in the same company of the 6th Marines and was killed at the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge (October, 1918)

  3. I recently came across two remarkable novels, recently published or re-published. One is by a Canadian veteran written in 1930: 'Cry Havoc,' by W. Redvers Dent. The other is by the French-African author, David Diop, 'At Night All Blood is Black,' about a Senegalese soldier in WW1.

  4. Three Day Road is en excellent novel about Canadian Cree soldiers in France.

  5. Perhaps we should publish a list of our recommended WWI fiction.

  6. Hervey Allen's "Toward the Flame" is an exceptional American soldier's memoir

  7. Let us not forget 'A Farewell to Arms'; both a masterpiece and beautiful !