Saturday, August 6, 2016

A week of reading and rest

I'm finally working up the will to actually use my break from University to do some academic work, after a full week of rest and reading. If there's something I miss from the time I wasn't a PhD student, it's the time I had for literature of all kinds. Last Spring break I used the time to catch up on reading as well, and found it rewarding. So far, I've completed Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel, and I'm looking at my bookshelves already to pick my next book.

Storm is a fascinating document, basically a polished diary of one German soldier's experience in World War I. I've encountered another version of this kind of literature before in All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque. I read that more than a year ago, and might re-read it soon, but I remember that that book is a much more "novelized" account of many of the same events. Unlike Remarque, Jünger passes no judgement of the causes of the war, nor does he mention any of the politics of the era at all. He simply tells what things happened to him, without much in the way of what he thought about them.

Both books left me amazed at the sheer amount of shelling that the war unleashed; it seems hardly a page goes by without "we came under heavy artillery fire". After a couple hundred pages of being under artillery fire (representing more than four years for Jünger) you wonder how it could be that anyone could survive the conflict and not be traumatized: just search YouTube for "world war 1 shell shock" and brace yourself.

I want to write a proper review of Storm of Steel, but I'm doing it in Spanish at my other site. For now, it is enough to state that it is a must-read for anyone interested in WWI, 20th Century history, or the combat experience in general. Accounts by historians are always useful, and I've read some myself, but Storm is a very polished primary source.

UPDATE 08/09/2016: the review is here (en español).

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