‘Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things’
In his historiographical study of three famous British battles, The Face of Battle (1976), the military historian, John Keegan, claimed that in a sense the Battle of the Somme has still not ended yet. Despite the acres of official war graves, ‘the principal memorial which the Somme left to the British nation is not one of headstones and inscriptions. It is intellectual and literary’ (Keegan, 1976: 285). The experience of the Western Front called forth ‘a literature of immense imaginative power and sweep … an expression of the feelings of a whole generation’ (286). Mindful of the book market, Keegan is wary of interpreting the sudden outpouring of war literature at the end of the 1920s as the ‘lifting of a collective amnesia’ or the ‘dissipation of a mass repression’. However, certain of these works have sustained a readership, notably Blunden’s, Graves’s, Hemingway’s and Sassoon’s. Keegan suggests that this is not because they offer documentary evidence about the Great War. It is because they are ‘moving and enduring expressions of truth about how man confronts the inevitability of death’ (288).
KeywordsEmotional Capital Western Front Young Officer Poetic Vision Complete Automaton
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.