Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

Synopsis

Winner of both the National Book Award for Arts and Letters and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, Paul Fussell's classic The Great War and Modern Memory remains one of the most original and gripping volumes ever written about the First World War. In its panoramic scope and poetic intensity, it illuminated a war that changed a generation and revolutionized the way we see the world. Now, in Wartime, Paul Fussell turns to the Second World War, the conflict in which he himself fought, to weave a more intensely personal and wide-ranging narrative. Whereas his former book focused primarily on literary figures, here Fussell examines the immediate impact of the war on soldiers and civilians. He compellingly depicts the psychological and emotional atmosphere of World War II by analyzing the wishful thinking and the euphemisms people needed to deal with unacceptable reality; by describing the abnormally intense frustration of desire and some of the means by which desire was satisfied; and, most importantly, by emphasizing the damage the war did to intellect, discrimination, honesty, individuality, complexity, ambiguity, and wit. Of course, no book of Fussell's would be complete without serious attention to the literature of the time. He offers astute commentary on Edmund Wilson's argument with Archibald MacLeish, Cyril Connolly's Horizon magazine, the war poetry of Randall Jarrell and Louis Simpson, and many other aspects of the wartime literary world. In this stunning volume, Fussell conveys the essence of that war as no other writer before him has.

Excerpt

This book is about the psychological and emotional culture of Americans and Britons during the Second World War. It is about the rationalizations and euphemisms people needed to deal with an unacceptable actuality from 1939 to 1945. And it is about the abnormally intense frustration of desire in wartime and some of the means by which desire was satisfied. The damage the war visited upon bodies and buildings, planes and tanks and ships, is obvious. Less obvious is the damage it did to intellect, discrimination, honesty, individuality, complexity, ambiguity, and irony, not to mention privacy and wit. For the past fifty years the Allied war has been sanitized and romanticized almost beyond recognition by the sentimental, the loony patriotic, the ignorant, and the bloodthirsty. I have tried to balance the scales.

I am indebted to many people for encouragement, information, and other help, and I must thank Kingsley Amis, William H. Bartsch, Harriette Behringer, James D. Bloom, John Bodley, Alfred Bush, James Cahill, Peter Conrad, Karen Crine, Matthew Evans, Gavin Ewart, Philip French, Betty Fussell, Edwin Sill Fussell, Tucky Fussell, Roland Gant, Paul J. Gartenman, Angeline Goreau, Robert Harper, Doris Hatcher, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Samuel Hynes, William Jovanovich, Arnold Johnston, George Kearns, John Keegan, Donald S. Lamm, H. P. Leinbaugh, Stanley Lewis, Isadore Lichstein, William McGuire, Michele Medinz, Bruce Meyer, Michael Miller, Margaret Mitchell, Reginald Moore, Anthony Powell, John Scanlan, Victor Selwyn, William Skaff, Joseph L. Slater, Humphrey Spender, Roderick Suddaby, Eileen Sullivan, Jeff Walden, Kay Whittle, Michael Willis, Eugene K. Wolf, and Nancy Wilson Ross Young. For permission to quote from manuscript . . .

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