Hello folks, welcome to the Friday list! Today I have chosen a topic that is close to my heart - war novels. The following pieces of fictional writing are not only great resources for learning about military history ( in many cases they are based on the experiences of the author) but they are some of my favourite pieces of fiction ever.
1.) Das Boot - Lothar Gunther Buchheim
VIIc type U-boat, which is the type that author Buchheim travelled in.
The film adaptation is rightly famous, but the book, as is often the case, is even better. Buchheim based the book on his experiences as a Leutnant in a propaganda unit for the German Kriegsmarine in WWII. In real life, Buchheim joined U-96, captained by Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock , during the Battle of the Atlantic. The claustrophobia, terror and boredom that were part and parcel of the life of a U-Boot crewman are detailed in this book explicitly. Upon seeing the film adaptation of his book, Bucheim is believed to have criticised it for sensationalising German sailors and the German war effort more generally, something which he sought to oppose with the novel.
2.) All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
Remarque based his writing on his real experiences of World War I. This is him in 1928.
This was one of those books that I was forced to read at school, but quickly became one of my favourites in its' own right. The understated precision of Remarque's prose in describing conditions on the Western Front is absolutely perfect - I shall never forget a line in a scene of intense close combat - 'A second Frenchman sees this and tries to get away, and a bayonet hisses into his back'.
3.) Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
A B-25 Mitchell - the bomber on which lead character John Yossarian serves as a bombardier.
A classic novel, that is as much about the absurdity of bureaucracy as much as it is about the war. Nevertheless this is another work that really zeroes in on the living conditions and the psychological texture of life for service personnel in times of armed conflict. Also, as a satirical novel it does have some humorous elements breaking up some of the more negative aspects.
4,) War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
The first ever edition released.
Another classic, and possibly one of the greatest novels ever written. If you haven't read it - please do! Although it might take you a little while...
5.) A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway at work
This is in my top three novels of all time. Hemingway's protagonist is an American soldier fighting with the Italian army against Austro-Hungarians in Italy during World War I. Hemingway's prose is as always sparse and economical in this, and his writing has a bewitching rhythm. This is possibly the result of his policy of 'Write drunk, edit sober'. In any case, it is one of the most arresting and heartbreaking things you will ever read.
What do you think of this list? Would you make any additions or take anything out? How do the depictions of combat or life during wartime match up to your own knowledge of that particular era? Are there any Osprey titles you would recommend as factual accompanimentsfor these?