cover image The Soldiers' Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War

The Soldiers' Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War

Rudolf Steiner, Samual Hynes, Samuel Lynn Hynes. A. Lane, $24.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-670-86585-7

Surveying the war writings of 20th-century Britons and Americans, Hynes (The First World War and English Culture) offers a convincing analysis of war narratives as combining elements of travel writing, autobiography and history in a context of experiences that involve exile from the subject's ""real"" life. Strangeness, he finds, is the principal constant of war narratives. War is alien to everyday experience, for death is war's essential point. At the same time, he finds that memories of war incorporate an affirmation of having been there. War expands the limits of the possible. It offers an intensity unmatched in ordinary life, and its hardships are overshadowed by its drama. Hynes recognizes that his focus on literary sources privileges the middle-class voice. His justification--that the bourgeois experience is the modern focal point of self-analysis and self-recording--isn't entirely persuasive. Many of his conclusions, moreover, replicate those of Glenn Gray's The Warriors. Still, he makes an honorable contribution to the literature on the complex subject of men's motives for accepting war's physical and psychological demands. (Jan.)