All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque topped the U.S. bestseller list for all of 1929 and it was due in no small part to enthusiastic book reviews like the one we've posted here that must have numbered in the thousands throughout all of North America:
"Here is a book about the war of such extraordinary purity and force that, reading it, one seems actually never to have read of the wear before. Numberless books have been written that present the stark, physical horrors of the war in quite as full detail as "All Quiet on the Western Front, but their effects have been nullified by one's perception of the intent to shock. Many others have given us a more complete, more literary rendition of war as it strikes full upon the nerves of sensitive and intelligent men. Nothing could be less academic than Herr Remarque's book; but nothing could be more vivid."
Is your name Anderson?
W.W. II: Where were the war poets?
Heartlessly torn from the brittle pages of a 1929 issue of The Bookman was this summary and review of Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Sigfried Sassoon:
"During the war something was lost to Englishmen which they can recapture in nostalgic memories but never recover in fact. This strange novel of Sassoon's reminds one of the faintly faded colors and old-fashioned security of English sporting prints."
The following five page article was written by the World War I poet, Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), in an
"attempt to give a rough outline of what the British poets did in the Great War, making every allowance for the fact that they were writing under great difficulty...".
Sassoon gave a thorough going-over of every war poet that he admired, naming at least twenty. It is a wonderful and revealing read for all those who have come to admire the poets of the First World War and Sigfried Sassoon in particular.
Click here to read additional articles about W.W. I poetry.
A few years after the Great War reached it's bloody conclusion, literary critic Helen McAfee discovered that a careful reading of the prominent authors and poets writing between 1918 and 1923 revealed that each of them shared a newfound sense of malaise - a despairing, pessimistic voice that was not found in their pre-war predecessors.
"Certainly the most striking dramatization of this depth of confusion and bitterness is Mr. Eliot's The Waste Land. As if by flashes of lightening it reveals the wreck of the storm... The poem is written in the Expressionist manner - a manner peculiarly adapted to the present temper... It is mood more than idea that gives the poem its unity. And the mood is black. It is bitter as gall; not only with a personal bitterness, but also with the bitterness of a man facing a world devastated by a war for a peace without ideals."
If you would like to read another 1920s article about the disillusioned post-war spirit, click here.
War poet Robert Graves was assigned the task of reviewing the W.W. I memoir A Brass Hat in No Man's Land
by the English General F.P. Crozier and came away liking it very much: "It is the only account of fighting on the Western Front that I have been able to read with sustained interest and respect." Crozier's memoir did not spare the reader any details involving the nastier side of the war; he reported on "trench suicides", self-inflicted wounds and mutinies:
"My experience of war, which is a prolonged one, is that anything may happen in it from the highest kinds of chivalry and sacrifice to the very lowest forms of barbaric debasement."
Click here to read the 1918 interview with General Hindenburg in which he declared that the Germans lost the war as a result of the American Army.
In this article, the famous chaplain of the 165th Infantry (formerly the NY Fighting 69th) Father Francis Duffy (1874 - 1932) describes how the regiment was ripped to shreds in two offensives - hinting all the while that "somebody blundered":
"Since 1915 no commanders in the older armies would dream of opposing too strongly wired and entrenched positions [with] the naked breast of their infantry. They take care that the wire, or part of it at least, is knocked down by artillery or laid flat by tanks before they ask unprotected riflemen to [breach the line]. When the wire is deep and still intact and strongly defended, the infantry can do little but hang their bodies upon it."
More about Father Duffy can be read here...