Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Veteran’s Day 11.11.11

Friday is Veteran’s Day.  World War I started almost a hundred years ago: for background information on its causes, there is no better source than Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August, written in 1962.  It won the Pulitzer Prize and cemented her reputation as a popular historian.  Many of the combatants were still alive in 1962; almost 50 years on, I’m not sure there are any survivors. 

Survivors’ stories do live on in Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War, a compilation of 20 personal accounts of the war across all occupations and nationalities. Infantrymen, nurses, civilians and schoolchildren recorded their experiences and author Peter Englund paraphrased or quoted them directly from letters, diaries and memoirs.  Initial enthusiasm for the war gave way to shock, bitterness and exhaustion as the war dragged on with no clear winners.   

If you would prefer a visual history, the Library has many excellent DVDs: First World War, Great War, Last day of World War I, WorldWar I: American Legacy and World War I in Color.  We have outstanding feature films dealing with the war as well: All Quiet on the Western Front, Gallipoli, King and Country and Paths of Glory all depict the futility of war. Two French films, Life and Nothing But and Very Long Engagement demonstrate  the toll taken on those left to mourn. 

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