[A] declaration of war should be a kind of popular festival with entrance-tickets and bands, like a bull fight. Then in the arena the ministers and generals of the two countries, dressed in bathing-drawers and armed with clubs, can have it out among themselves. Whoever survives, his country wins. That would be much simpler and more just than this arrangement, where the wrong people do the fighting.-- Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front
Any day and in every way this can be seen, eating and vomiting and war.-- Gertrude Stein, Wars I Have Seen
Helen Zenna Smith's Not So Quiet . . . ( 1930) is a book about the body. Specifically, it chronicles the experience of a corps of six English gentlewomen, whose average age is twenty-one, as they drive field ambulances of wounded men picked up by trains at the front to hospitals set up just behind the fighting lines, in what Mary Borden has also memorialized as "the forbidden zone" in France in 1918. 1Their war is not a popular festival, like Erich Maria Remarque's in All Quiet on the Western Front. It is a grotesque of the "brotherhood" felt by the German men, an inversion of "sisterhood." Helen and her companions are volunteer ambulance drivers. They, like VAD (Volunteer Aid Detachment) nurses, have actually paid for the privilege of serving at the front, their patriotic upper-class families proud to sacrifice daughters as well as sons for the war effort, providing their passage money and their uniforms, sending packages of cocoa and carbolic body belts to keep off the lice.
These body belts, personal disinfectants, always fighting a losing battle against the invasion of delicately bred female bodies by lice and fleas, worn between skin and rough clothing, suggest a "forbid-