Last month, we began a journey into the much respected and revered literature of the First World War. Whether it was written during the war, directly after its ending, or twenty years later, literature of this time holds a universality that makes it applicable to our lives even almost a hundred years later. In our newsletter last month, we got ready for the 100 year anniversary of the war’s end by examining the role literature played for soldiers in the trenches as well as some of the most popular novelists and poets of the time. We saw the differences between Erich Maria Remarque and Ernest Hemingway, who both wrote on anti-war themes by focusing on the personal, the beautiful and the sad.
Other authors, such as Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon got behind a more personal, anti-war message in their writings – avoiding the sentimentality often seen by young writers of their generation and focusing more on the sheer brutality and horror of the war. Both writers were catapulted to fame, showing how popular all kinds of writing on the war could be – readers wanted the sentimentality – the love story of Hemingway, but also the truth from Robert Graves.
As we see, literature of the First World War ranges vastly in different forms, different styles, and different themes. However, throughout it all we can see the absolute change war made on the idealistic young writers of the day. In fact, the difference in writing between the works of the First World War and the Second is clear – at the onset of the Second World War people were not so innocent anymore, they were attuned to the destructiveness of war and were far more realistic from the beginning. At this upcoming 100 year anniversary of the war, we remember the young men who fought for their countries and wrote vociferously on their experiences – experiences not so different from what young men and women experienced in the Second World War, in Vietnam, in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere war has affected the lives of all.