It is the 100th anniversary of the start of The Great War, as self was being constantly reminded when she was in the UK, a few weeks ago.
Those kinds of commemorations seem to get lost in the welter of American politics — Are we going back into Iraq? What should/can we do about Putin? — but the Review section of the June 21-22, 2014 Wall Street Journal is entirely devoted to articles about the Great War. On p. C3, at the bottom right corner, is a tiny article by Amanda Foreman on “The Poets of Devastation.”
All the familiar names are there: Rupert Brooke (gorgeous), Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon.
After a few mentions of these poets’ iconic works, Foreman delivers the meat and potatoes:
“. . . the war poets’ greatest contribution wasn’t their rediscovery that war is truest hell, but their reinvention of poetry as a democratic mode of expression.”
She mentions the “broadening of the canon” with works like Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.
“. . . there is no other war in history,” Foreman writes, “. . . with the exception of the Trojan War, whose poetry has so shaped a nation.”
(Self thinks the Vietnam War definitely served a similar function for American literature. Think Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War. Think Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake. Think Michael Herr’s Dispatches. Think Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. Think Robert Stone)
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.