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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Under Fire: the story of a squad (Le Feu: journal d'une escouade) by Henri Barbusse

Trench warfare during World War I was not fun.

Book Review
Under Fire: the story of a squad
 (Le Feu: journal d'une escouade)
by Henri Barbusse
p. 1916

  You would expect a novel about trench warfare on the Western Front during World War I, and Under Fire: the story of a squad, is dark indeed.  Under Fire is typically called the "first" novel about World War I, and considering that it was actually published while the war was still happening, I'd say it's a fair cop.

  My sense is that it's hard for people living today to understand just how down everyone was for World War I before it started.  The "horrors of war" are accepted even by people in favor of participation in war.  Back then it was different, and World War I was actually greeted with widespread enthusiasm and patriotism by the various European populations who would soon sacrifice their sons and daughters by the thousands.

  I've actually been to the area described in this book, and seen many of the locations Barbusse describes in the course of Under Fire.  A century on you can still feel the death in the air,  but Barbusse's first hand descriptions grimly bring the nightmarish reality of trench warfare to life.  There is no magical patriotism in Under Fire, just the grim reality of carnage and death. A sobering read to be sure.

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