Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Fear. . .

With the centenary of the First World War nearly upon us, I'm anticipating that a good chunk of my reading for the next four years will be WWI fiction and memoirs as I have quite a growing collection (in particular I'm fascinated by women's writings on the war). I'm also a huge fan of NYRB Classics, so was intrigued to read about an upcoming publication on their Different Stripe blog.
Fear, by French author Gabriel Chevallier, who fought in WWI, is translated by Imrie Malcolm with an introduction by John Berger. It was originally published in 1930 and prosecuted for sedition five years later. Here's a description from the NYRB catalogue:

Jean Dartemont, the hero of Gabriel Chevallier’s autobiographical novel, enters what was not yet known as World War I in 1915, when it was just beginning to be clear that a war that all the combatants were initially confident would move swiftly to a conclusion was instead frozen murderously in place. After enduring the horrors of the trenches and the deadly leagues of no-man’s-land stretching beyond them, Jean is wounded and hospitalized. Away from the front, he confronts the relentless blindness of the authorities and much of the general public to the hideous realities of modern, mechanized combat. Jean decides he must resist. How? By telling the simple truth. Urged to encourage new recruits with tales of derring-do service, Jean does not mince words. What did he do on the battlefield? He responds like a man: “I was afraid.”
This edition will be available in May 2014 in North America.  (On further investigation, I've discovered that it's already available in the U.K., published by Serpent's Tail, which goes to show how difficult it is to market small press literature in translation, even to someone constantly on the look-out for this type of book - no matter how many newspaper reviews, blogs, and bookstore shelf scans I go through, I'm always going to miss something).  I do notice that Serpent's Tail has also just published a new edition of Frederic Manning's Her Privates We with an introduction by William Boyd. I have a copy already but it's fairly beaten up so I may invest in this new one. Clearly I need to keep an eye on this publisher - off to sign up for their email newsletter.

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