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History Between Humor and Tragedy: Musings on Robert Graves' Memoir, Goodbye to All That

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History Between Humor and Tragedy: Musings on Robert Graves' Memoir, Goodbye to All That

By David James

DjamesBTAT

*When thinking about the First World War, I am reminded of a quote by Jorge Luis Borges about the 1982 Falklands War, “It is a fight between two bald men over a comb.” In a similar way, we could say that WWI was a fight between a bunch of spoiled children over who got to use the playroom. Though they all had their own toys, sharing and cooperation were unlearned traits. There is something profoundly important to remember about this tragedy, though sometimes the easiest way to deal with tragedy, if not by outrage, stoicism, or escapism, involves a disarming sense of humor and irreverence. I will bring up these four issues in this post by focusing on Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All Thathis memoirs of early life in England, his participation in the trenches of WWI, and his post-war experiences.

Read more: History Between Humor and Tragedy: Musings on Robert Graves' Memoir, Goodbye to All That

Ellen N. La Motte's The Backwash of War. Did a Censored Female Writer Inspire Hemingway’s Famous Style?

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Ellen N. La Motte's The Backwash of War. Did a Censored Female Writer Inspire Hemingway’s Famous Style?*

By Cynthia Wachtell 

 

Everyone knows Hemingway, but few know of Ellen N. La Motte. According to Cynthia Wachtell, editor of the new and expanded edition of La Motte's formerly-censored book, The Backwash of War, people should. She is the extraordinary World War I nurse who wrote like Hemingway before Hemingway. She was arguably the originator of his famous style – the first to write about World War I using spare, understated, declarative prose. Wachtell first published this article in The Conversation but was kind enough to not only let WWrite reprint it but also to give some background on her inspiration for studying La Motte and Hemingway: her grandfather, who was a conscientious objector during WWI. At WWrite this week: "Ellen N. La Motte's The Backwash of War. Did a Censored Female Writer Inspire Hemingway’s Famous Style?"

 

CW2A photograph of Ellen N. La Motte soon after completing ‘The Backwash of War’ in 1916. Courtesy of the National Archives, College Park, Maryland. Source: Cynthia Wachtell

Virtually everyone has heard of Ernest Hemingway. But you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who knows of Ellen N. La Motte.

People should.

She is the extraordinary World War I nurse who wrote like Hemingway before Hemingway. She was arguably the originator of his famous style – the first to write about World War I using spare, understated, declarative prose.

Read more: Ellen N. La Motte's The Backwash of War. Did a Censored Female Writer Inspire Hemingway’s Famous...

WWI Touches Pablo Picasso

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WWI Touches Pablo Picasso

By David Allen Sullivan

 

While award-winning poet David Allen Sullivan visited the Tate Museum Great War Art exhibition, he was most struck by a painting that seemed almost irrelevant to the other artistic representations of battle carnage in the museum: A Family by the Sea by Pablo Picasso. Sullivan, who has written poetry from the hard lens of the Iraq War in his book, Every Seed of the Pomegranate, contemplates WWI, Picasso, and the ethics of subtlety and beauty in the face of violence. For the poem, he recasts his visit to the Tate as one to the Paris Louvre exhibition, "Disasters of War 1800-2014," Read his poem, "WWI Touches Picasso," published for the first time on WWrite this week.

 

SullivanPaintingFamille au bord de la mer, by Pablo Picasso 

The art of World War I,

displayed on the grey walls

of the Louvre’s special exhibit

are numbing: ranked files

of death-masked soldiers,

faces crumpling into hands,

a brass general fashioned

from spent shell casing…

Read more: WWI Touches Pablo Picasso

"The End of Patriarchy": Pat Barker’s WWI Novel, Regeneration

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"The End of Patriarchy": Pat Barker’s WWI Novel, Regeneration

By Jennifer Orth-Veillon, Blog Curator

Legendary novelist, Pat Barker, winner of the 1995 Man Booker Prize for her trilogy, Regeneration, based on the life of British male soldiers in WWI, announced in a January interview with The Guardian that "we're at the end of patriarchy and I’m fine with that as long as it’s remembered that among the victims of patriarchy the vast majority are men." In this last post of Women's History Month in which WWrite has showcased women war writers,  blog curator Jennifer Orth-Veillon discusses the meaning of Barker's statement in the context of Regeneration, a novel that takes place in Scotland's Craiglockhart Psychiatric Hospital and features the fictional characters poets Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and their renowned war psychiatrist, W.H.R. Rivers. Read about Barker and her monumental literary work on WWI at WWrite this week.

 

RegnerationCover

“You could argue that time’s up; we’re at the end of the patriarchy,” announced writer Pat Barker about her newest novel in an interview with The Guardian’s Claire Armitstead. The Silence of the Girls, published in January, retells the story of the siege of Troy in Homer’s Illiad from the perspective of the enslaved Trojan queen, Breseis. Barker is no stranger to the war story; out of 14 published novels, over half are about both world wars written from male and female viewpoints. However, she is best known for Regeneration, a trilogy tracing the lives of British men during WWI.

Read more: "The End of Patriarchy": Pat Barker’s WWI Novel, Regeneration

Army of Shadows

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Army of Shadows*

By Roxana Robinson

 

When award-winning author Roxana Robinson was writing her critically acclaimed book about a veteran of the Iraq war, Sparta, she only allowed herself to read one war novel: Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. For Robinson, it "beautifully resolves the problems of scale and language" with a narrative that is "both beautiful and desolate." Read Robinson's reflections on contemporary war writing through the lens of Remarque's WWI classic novel at WWrite this week.

 

RobibsonAllQuietAll Quiet on the Western Front film poster. Image credit: imbd

I read only one war novel while I was writing my own.

There were reasons: I didn’t want to hear another novelist’s voice, as I was trying to find my own way into a soldier’s mind. I didn’t want to learn about the wrong war: every war has its own weather and terrain, its own equipment and language, and I didn’t want the wrong ones in my head. I couldn’t read novels about the Iraq war because there were none.

Read more: Army of Shadows

Writing in the Post-War World of Agatha Christie by Christopher Huang

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Writing in the Post-War World of Agatha Christie

By Christopher Huang

 

Agatha Christie has won the world over with her fabulous detective novels and her star character, Hercule Poirot. Less renowned is her time in WWI as a nurse, an experience that, without a doubt, inspired her narrative universe. Christopher Huang, the author of A Gentleman's Murder, a detective story about a murder in a gentlemen's club of British 1914-1918 veterans, discusses the influence of WWI on Agatha Christie's work. Uncover Huang's post about one of the greatest detective writers of all time.

 

HUANGagathanurse 3036990cChristie's time as a nurse and dispenser in the First World War without doubt informed her choice of poison as the predominant murder weapon in her novels (AGATHA CHRISTIE ARCHIVE) Image credit: The Telegraph

It’s no secret that Agatha Christie’s career as a mystery novelist began with the First World War. The Mysterious Affair at Styles was written at the close of the war, and Hercule Poirot made his debut there as one of the numerous Belgian refugees seeking asylum in England during the war. Christie herself had served as a volunteer nurse, dispensing medications, and this experience becomes visible in her use of poisons in multiple books afterward. What is perhaps a little less obvious is the way in which the war’s negative impact on society appears in her work. Part of this absence might have to do with familiarity; generally, you have no need to draw attention to something when your audience is intimately familiar with it. It might also reflect a distaste for unpleasantness; as a form of escapist literature, the whole point of the mystery story was to put the harsher realities of the post-war world aside and lose oneself in something a little more positive.

Read more: Writing in the Post-War World of Agatha Christie by Christopher Huang

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