cover image The Missing of the Somme

The Missing of the Somme

Geoff Dyer. Vintage, $14.95 trade paper (176 p) ISBN 978-0-307-74297-1

This instant classic%E2%80%94first published in 1994 and now available in the U.S.%E2%80%94by acclaimed British author Dyer (Otherwise Known as the Human Condition) presents an extended "meditation" on the Great War's contemporary and historical meanings. Dyer was one of the first to interpret war in the context of the quest for "memory and meaning" made familiar by Jay Winter and David Gregory. For the British, "the war helped to preserve the past even as it destroyed it," and provided a caesura between a stable past and an uncertain future. Dyer supports his point with an impressive survey of poems, letters, memoirs, and novels, combined with a perceptive analysis of British war memorials, and utilizing extensive citations. He concludes with an elegiac description of a peaceful, isolated Somme battlefield: "where terrible violence has taken place the earth will sometimes generate an equal and opposite sense of peace." Ironically, Dyer's contribution to making the Great War part of the Matter of Britain also helped transform the Somme into a center of tourism and pilgrimage, vulgar but vital. (July)