pilots in dress uniforms doughboys with mules African American Officers The pilots gas masks African American Soldiers 1 Mule Rearing Riveters

The WWrite Blog

Censored WWI Works 2: Mary Borden's Forbidden Zone and Backwash of War by Ellen LaMotte

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Two WWI Nurses Writing From No-Man's-Land

"I have not invented anything in this book."
Mary Borden, The Forbidden Zone: An American Nurse at the Western Front (1917)

"War, superb as it is, is not necessarily a filtering process, by which men and nations may be purified. Well, there are many people to write you of the noble side, the heroic side, the exalted side. I must write you of what I have seen, the other side, the backwash.'"
Ellen Lamotte , The Backwash of War: The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by An American Hospital Nurse:  (1916)

NursesGasMasksNurses in gas masks at the trenches, France, c. 1917 (U.S. postcard). From the archives of the National Library of Medicine, via Wikimedia Commons.

The first post in this series,, "Censored WWI Works" addressed Stanley Kubrick's film, Paths of Glory, and Gabriel Chevallier's novel, FearFrance censored both works decades after WWI because each seemingly portrayed the French military in a negative light. Today, they are considered among the best artistic representations of the war due to the realistic way they paint a gory, corrupt, and anti-triumphant picture of combat and trench warfare. 

BackwashWarLaMotteMaryBordenForbiddenZoneThis second installment features, as Concordia University literature professor Ariela Freedman names them, two "Women Writing From No-Man's-Land:" Mary Borden and Ellen Lamotte, two field hospital nurses who witnessed some of WWI's worst casualties. Borden's The Forbidden Zone and Lamotte's The Backwash of War chronicle, part by part, the ways battle shreds the human body beyond recognition. They slowly and painfully stretch the battle experience from the trenches into hospitals, where the agonizing soldier might spend his last days. Censored in America to protect national morale from the ghastly descriptions of the wounded, their accounts have ignited new                                                                    interest as the Centennial takes shape.

Before the United States entered WWI, Ellen Lamotte served with the American Ambulance Service in Paris and a nurse at a French military hospital from 1914-1916. Lamotte composed The Backwash of War into fourteen vignettes, each telling a different story of a wounded soldier's experience once brought in from the battlefield. He could be patched up quickly and sent back out only to come back the next day. He could die quickly or spend harrowing hours or days before the end. He could be sent home with a missing limb or a wound so repulsive, he could never enter society without the terrible stigma of his plight. Unflinching, Lamotte misses no detail—body fluids, nauseating odors, screams. Even the most un-squeamish reader can't help turning away. The book was censored at the end of the war and wasn't republished until 1934. Before Lamotte plunges us into the nightmarish vignettes, she warns us in her introduction "After this war, there will be many other wars, and in the intervals there will peace. So it will alternate for many generations. By examining the things cast up in the backwash, we can gauge the progress of humanity. When clean little lives, when clean little souls boil up in the backwash, they will consolidate, after the final war, into a peace that shall endure. But not till then." 

Mary BordenphotoMary BordenMary Borden's account, The Forbidden Zone, strays from Lamotte's autobiographical tone with an experimental approach. As Ariela Freedman explains in the introduction to her interesting article on Borden, "Mary Borden's Forbidden Zone: Women's Writing From No-Man's-Land," 

It is one of the most powerful and one of the most experimental pieces of writing to have emerged from the war. Although Borden's preface asserts the truth of her account, her method is more imagistic than documentary. Indeed, she wrote a surreal memoir about the war during a period when most war memoirs were written as conventional autobiographies. Neither a record nor a chronicle. . . her war memoir attempted to register the impact of World War I through innovative aesthetic strategies. Borden mixes the genres of essay, fiction, and poetry, and blurs the lines between documentary and fiction. Beginning with the unfocused, muddy fields of Belgium, she portrays war as a series of phantasmic dislocations, an apocalyptic landscape marked by the posthuman incursion of the war machine. She describes the men and women of the war as displaced inhabitants of a strange, hallucinated world where people are reduced to bodies and functions. 

Like Lamotte, Borden's book, with its ghastly descriptions of lice-infested, hemorrhaging bodies, was deemed inappropriateElleLaMottephotoEllen Lamotte and consequently taken from the shelves at WWI's end. It was published in 1929. More than just graphic, readers today find Borden's account a work of Modernism—appropriately confused and chaotic. In her moving introduction, she explains 

To those who find who find these impressions confused, I would say they are fragments of a great confusion. Any attempt to reduce them to order would require artifice on my part and would falsify them. To those on the other hand who find them unbearably plain, I would say I blurred the bare horror of facts and softened the reality in spite of myself, not because I wished to do so, but because I was incapable of a nearer approach to the truth.

I have dared to dedicate these pages to the Poilus [French WWI soldiers] who passed through our hands during this war because I believe they would recognise the dimmed reality reflected in these pictures. But the book is not meant for them. They know, not only everything that is contained in it, but all the rest that can never be written.

If you happen to read either book, your comments are welcome. Why do you think these were censored?

If you have a censored WWI literary work in mind, or would like to write more about the works discussed in the series, please contact me at jennifer.orth-veillon@worldwar1centennial.org

 

WWrite Weekend Update for May 15th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Rich Bacchus on Writing Fiction from a Family Archive, Praise for WWrite Bloggers' Forthcoming Book, It's My Country Too, the Mothers of WWI Soldiers, and Poetry in the Trenches

This Week's WWrite Featured Post:  This week's post features journalist, writer, and teacher, Rich Bachus. Bachus edits and curates the WWI bachus cvr final frontCentennial Commission blog, Trench Commander, which chronicles his family's military adventures and the ways in which they influenced his generation of Baby Boomers. For the WWrite Blog, Bachus discusses the complex process of writing his novel, Into No Man's Land, inspired by a family archival collection of letters and other artifacts dating from his grandfather's experience in WWI as a Trench Commander in France to the present. Check out Bachus' fascinating work in his interview with Chris Isleib, Director of Public Affairs, WWI Centennial Commission, Four Questions for Rich Bachus, "Bringing the War to Life Through the Details (both Great and Small) of One Soldier." (Bachus book cover, image right).

BackwashWarLaMotteNext week's post will feature another installment in the series about WWI censored written works. Jennifer Orth-Veillon, the WWrite blog curator, will discuss two censored works by Army nurses: Ellen N. Lamotte's The Backwash of War (book cover image, left) and Mary Borden's The Forbidden Zone.

It's My Country Too Advance Praise WWrite bloggers Jerri Bell (post on WWI Navy Yeoman, Marjory Stoneman Douglas) ItsMyCountryTooand Tracy Crow (post on Marine Sergeant, Leila Lebrand) have received intense praise for their book, which will be released on July 1, 2017, It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan (book cover, right). Major Dee Anne McWilliams U.S. Army (Ret.), president of Women in Military Service for America writes "This compendium of women s bravery and accomplishments is a compelling read of firsthand accounts in U.S. military conflicts. No American woman should raise her right hand and swear to support and defend without these haunting voices urging her to walk the trail where few have gone. Every American history syllabus should include this book as a requirement. A true inspiration!" Award-winning veteran writer, Matt Gallagher, author of Youngblood says "Jerri Bell and Tracy Crow have done a great literary service with this book for too long, the courage and gallantry of American women on the battlefield has gone unnoticed. This is vital, superb reading." 

Mothers ProudMother's Day and Mothers of WWI Soldiers As highlighted by the WWI Centennial News this week, the mother figure played an essential and difficult role in WWI. In recruitment campaigns, propaganda artists used the mother symbol to remind young men of their duty to their country and family (recruitment poster, left). Mothers managed the home front, taking up jobs men left behind, and they were also healers, serving as nurses to the wounded and sick. For WWI soldier-writers, they often served as muses—the wife or girlfriend sparked sentimentality and commitment but also complication—children, a geographically-difficult relationship, or the promises of return. The mother solidified eternal, unconditional love for the man serving abroad. Whether he returned or not. With his life at stake, the mother sometimes held more ground for the young soldier than the lover or wife. The Mother also was known as an unmistakable symbol for the soldier's country. On this Mother's Day, the WWrite Blog encourages readers and subscribers to revisit Connie Ruzich's post on Lieutenant John Hunter Wickersham's poem "Raindrops on Your Old Tin Hat." In the hours before the battle that would kill him, he writes a poem to his mother comparing the relentless rain of northeastern France to her tears shed for his suffering. It seems his consecrated his last words were for her as a call to engrave his tortuous experience for posterity, to not forget. For Wickersham, it seemed the mother's tears held the keys to understanding the soldier's experience. 

Mike Schuster on Poetry in the Trenches Also featured in this week's WWI Centennial News is Mike Schuster's post on his site, The Great War Project. He highlights the bitter and hopeless tone that soldier-poets began to express in their poetry during long periods of waiting in the trenches. Check it out!

Insert & upload images/pdf/ppt For those who missed the news last week —WWrite Blog Comment Feature Now Available! The Commission is excited to announce that it has authorized and enabled comments for the blog posts. Comments are a vital part of the WWrite project as the purpose of the blog is to expand and modernize the complex space of memory by featuring today's writers and scholars inspired by writing or events from WWI. We want WWrite to become a learning resource for students, teachers, writers, readers, artists, and anyone curious about writing's unique place in the Great War. We don't want you just to read, but also to engage with these writers and scholars. The comments allow discussions among the diverse readership, which will not only encourage a conversation about memory—it will also rehabilitate, construct, and create the memory that has been absent from current collective culture.

To leave a comment, scroll down to the right bottom of any post (except weekend updates) and click on "comments." If it says "0 Comments," that means no comments have been left. You can be the first. Just click. You will then be asked to post your comment. You will also need to enter your name and email. Finally, you'll have to confirm that you're not a robot by clicking the box "I'm not a robot." All comments are curated for appropriateness before posting. Please allow 48 hours before your comment appears on the site. 

Contribute news and posts to WWrite! WWrite is always looking for news items about writing and WWI. If you have news, please contact Jennifer Orth-Veillon at jennifer.orth-veillon@worldwar1centennial.org. And, the blog welcomes posts from all kinds of writers, artists, and scholars. If you have a story to tell about WWI writers or writing, please click "I would like to contribute a story" on the left-hand column of the WWrite landing page. And please encourage friends to subscribe!

Rich Bachus on the Making of a New World War I Novel – Part 1, "How I turned a family archive into an epic saga of the Great War."

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

How I turned a family archive into an epic saga of the Great War

bachus cvr final frontFront cover, Into No Man's Land, by Rich BachusWhen I began rummaging around in the cardboard boxes and antique chests that constituted my Bachus family archive, I was not planning on writing a novel that would center on World War I.

I was already an established national and regional journalist, having worked for The Christian Science Monitor and freelanced for publications such as Newsweek, Ski, and dozens of other national and regional magazines and newspapers. So, I knew that I wanted to write about these ancestors of mine who stared back at me from black-and-white photographs and yellowing newspaper clippings with datelines of Manzanillo, Cuba … Tacna-Arica, South America … and Belfort, France. But it took some time and study to find the focus – the real heart of their story.

Read more: Rich Bachus on the Making of a New World War I Novel – Part 1, "How I turned a family archive into...

WWrite Weekend Update for May 7th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

User Rating: 0 / 5

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Censored Works by Stanley Kubrick and Gabriel Chevallier, Today's French Election, and Comments (again)

Film 538w PathsGlory originalThis Week's WWrite Featured Post:  To mark today's historical election in France, the post comes from blog curator, Jennifer Orth-Veillon, who begins a series about post-WWI French censorship of film and literature that portrayed overly-negative images of the war. The film, Paths of Glory, by Stanley Kubrick and Gabriel Chevallier's book, Fear,were considered threats to France's vision of patriotism and triumph after the Armistice of 1918. (Scene from Paths of Glory with Kirk Douglas, image left)

Next week's post features journalist, writer, and teacher, Rich Bachus. Bachus edits and curates the WWI bachus cvr final frontCentennial Commission blog, Trench Commander, which chronicles his family's military adventures and the ways in which they influenced his generation of Baby Boomers. For the WWrite Blog, Bachus will discuss the complex process of writing his novel, Into No Man's Land, inspired by a family archival collection of letters and other artifacts dating from his grandfather's experience in WWI as a Trench Commander in France to the present. Check out Bachus' fascinating work in his interview with Chris Isleib, Director of Public Affairs WWI Centennial Commission, Four Questions for Rich Bachus, "Bringing the War to Life Through the Details (both Great and Small) of One Soldier." (Bachus book cover, image right).

Read more: WWrite Weekend Update for May 7th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

Stanley Kubrick and Gabriel Chevallier - Censored WWI Film and Novel in France

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Film 538w PathsGlory originalKirk Douglas as Colonel Dax in Paths of Glory, a 1957 film by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel by Humphrey CobbPaths of Glory and Fear

Gabriel Chevallier FEARBook cover for English translation of French writer Gabriel Chevallier's La Peur (Fear)
This is the first in a series of short blog posts I will write concerning censorship of WWI art and literature.

Kirk Douglas (father of Michael). Stanley Kubrick. Two American names that have meant worldwide stardom and cinematic virtuosity across decades. But in France, the award-winning actor and director faced the opposite for almost twenty years. Made in 1957, Paths of Glory (adapted from the novel by Humphrey Cobb), the WWI film that chronicles the unjust deaths of three innocent soldiers accused of battlefield cowardice by corrupt leaders, was censored in France until 1975 due to its anti-war stance and criticism of France's military leadership. The film was also banned from American military bases in Europe. 

Read more: Stanley Kubrick and Gabriel Chevallier - Censored WWI Film and Novel in France

WWrite Weekend Update for April 30th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

"One in the Same" by Ernest Lucas McClees, Blog Comments Now Available, WWI America Immigrant Poetry, and Artist Soldiers at the Smithsonian

BruteThis Week's WWrite Featured Post:  This week's blog post features Eastern Kentucky University Veterans Studies and Humanities professor, retired U.S. Marine, and writer, Ernest Lucas McClees. Drawing parallels between today's and WWI-era propaganda, his post, "One in the Same," discusses the ways that media demonizes and dehumanizes the foreign enemy by targeting immigrant groups at home. McClees also gives readers another chance to visit Darryl Dillard's February post in which he wrote about the representation of African-American actors during WWI. Dillard and McClees both address the infamous "Destroy this Mad Brute" military poster (image, left) that shows a large ape-like creature, supposedly a German, grasping a white woman against her will.

To mark next week's historical election in France, the post comes from blog curator, Jennifer Orth-Veillon, who will discuss post-WWI French censorship ofFilm 538w PathsGlory original film and literature that portrayed overly-negative images of the war. The film, Paths of Glory, by Stanley Kubrick and Gabriel Chevallier 's book, Fear, were considered threats to France's vision of patriotism and triumph after the Armistice of 1918. (Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory).

Read more: WWrite Weekend Update for April 30th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

Subcategories

Subscribe to WWrite & More
To sign up for updates to the WWrite blog and WWI topics, or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your email address below.