In Flanders fields the poppies grow

In England, one quickly learns -- as I did one summer hitchhiking and BritRailing around the country -- how much larger World War I looms in British memory than Word War II -- "our" war. Every town has its WW I memorial with a list of the dead, often hundreds of names from a little country town.

The "lost generation."

My grandfather fought in WW I as a Browning automatic rifleman -- but I never heard that taciturn man speak of it. Simon Crump never heard his grandfather speak of his service in WW I, either, but he watched him flinch at firecrackers and grimace at bonfires. Every autumn, Mr. Crump reads a book about WW I, and this year, he picked Frederick Manning's The Middle Parts of Fortune (originally called Her Privates We). It's a remarkable novel for its simplicity -- not its crudity or naivete but for the unwavering directness and clarity of Manning's account of the Battle of the Somme. Crump captures it well; Ernest Hemingway called it the "finest and noblest" book on men at war he'd ever read, curiously falling into precisely the kind of shining language he (and Manning) normally avoided.

November 10, 2006 10:41 AM | | Comments (1)



Nice to know that you read it.


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