Undertones of War

Undertones of War

Book - 2007
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"I took my road with no little pride of fear; one morning I feared very sharply, as I saw what looked like a rising shroud over a wooden cross in the clustering mist. Horror! But on a closer study I realized that the apparition was only a flannel gas helmet. . . . What an age since 1914!"

In Undertones of War , one of the finest autobiographies to come out of World War I, the acclaimed poet Edmund Blunden records his devastating experiences in combat. After enlisting at the age of twenty, he took part in the disastrous battles at the Somme, Ypres, and Passchendaele, describing them as "murder, not only to the troops but to their singing faiths and hopes."

All the horrors of trench warfare, all the absurdity and feeble attempts to make sense of the fighting, all the strangeness of observing war as a writer--of being simultaneously soldier and poet--pervade Blunden's memoir. In steely-eyed prose as richly allusive as any poetry, he tells of the endurance and despair found among the men of his battalion, including the harrowing acts of bravery that won him the Military Cross.

Now back in print for American readers, the volume includes a selection of Blunden's war poems that unflinchingly juxtapose death in the trenches with the beauty of Flanders's fields. Undertones of War deserves a place on anyone's bookshelf between Siegfried Sassoon's poetry and Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That .
Publisher: Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2007.
ISBN: 9780226061764
Branch Call Number: 940. 41241 BLU
Characteristics: xviii, 234 p.


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Jan 31, 2018

One of the most impressive, most beautiful, and also most difficult memoirs of the Great War. Blunden was already an accomplished poet when he enlisted and arrived on the Western Front in 1916. He writes with an educated poet's large vocabulary and constancy of allusion. If you know English poetry well, you stand to get much more out of the book and fully appreciate its verbal splendor. He was a line officer--a lieutenant--and at the front for about two years, very often under fire during his involvement in the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres (known to Americans as the Battle of Passchendaele). He saw many comrades killed, officers, noncoms, and enlisted men (though he had more distant dealing with the last), and he writes of each man he knew glowingly, never picking at faults but always adhering to the qualities that made him call them comrades (and he doesn't mention the honors he earned at all. An acutely extraordinary book by an extraordinary man, who was 19 to 21 years old when he had the experiences he reports.

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