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 Fire, was 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.