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Alamein to Zem Zem

Alamein to Zem Zem [Kindle Edition]

Keith Douglas
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

A classic war book by one of the finest poets of the Second World War. Keith Douglas was posted to Palestine in 1941 with a cavalry regiment. When fighting broke out at El Alamein in 1942, he was instructed to stay behind as a staff officer. But he wanted to fight, and so, completely disobeying orders, he drove a truck to the sight of the battle and participated as a tank commander. Alamein to Zem Zem is a vivid and unforgettable description of his experiences on the desert battlefield, seen through the eyes of a poet-soldier.

'Highly charged, violent descriptive prose ... conveys the humour, the pathos and the literal beauty of that dead world of tanks, sand, scrub and human corpses ... Comparable in descriptive power and intelligence to the books of Remarque, Sassoon and Blunden which spoke in similar terms of 1914-1918.' Spectator

About the Author

Keith Douglas was born in 1920. At school and at Oxford he was both a prolific poet and a committed member of the Officers Training Corps. When the Second World War broke out, he enlisted immediately, and was posted to Palestine in 1941. When his tank regiment began fighting in El Alamein in 1942, Douglas was instructed to stay behind as a staff officer. But he made his own way to the battlefield, an experience which he recounted in his prose memoir Alamein to Zem Zem (first published in 1946). He later took part in the Normandy invasion on 6 June 1944, and was killed three days later. His Collected Poems came out in 1951.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 813 KB
  • Print Length: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Faber Finds (4 Jun 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9ZXQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #67,928 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proof that real-life is better than fiction 7 April 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This first-hand account of the battle of El Alamein by a tank commander who was also a well-regarded poet is well worth reading. While it is rather more gung-ho, the closest parallel I can think of is some of Wilfred Owen's poetry from the Western Front of the previous round of Unpleasantness. I was particularly struck by something that is very common in real military memoirs but almost entirely absent from fictional ones: that soldiers - even officers - rarely know what's going on, are frequently confused, spend far more time waiting around than they do fighting, and that their biggest enemy is often the environment as opposed to the other side's soldiers. Some of the confusion seeps through to the pages. In a very short book, it is sometimes hard to keep track of who is who in Douglas's squadron, but whereas in a work of fiction that would be terribly important, in this true account it really doesn't matter - the overall impression is what counts. In short, this is one of the few books that I can whole-heartedly recommend to absolutely everyone, no matter whether your normal diet is great literature or formulaic pot-boiler thrillers. Buy it. Now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic 1 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
One thye really great literary accounts which emerged from World War II. There is no better account of the war in the weestern desert. It's beautifu;l;ly written, very honest and often very funny.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Prose of War. 30 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I first read about Keith Douglas in The 20th Century in Poetry - also available from Amazon - an excellent anthology edited by Michael Hulse and Simon Rae:

Page 271 : ‘A young tank officer, Keith Douglas, served in the North Africa campaign, and wrote an excellent memoir about his experiences, Alamein to Zem Zem. ‘In tank warfare you only saw your enemy when he surrendered or when as in Vergissmeinnicht, you came upon his rotting corpse.’ Douglas was killed himself in Normandy a year later, leaving arguably the best war poems of any Englishman in the conflict.’

I’ve grown to be wary of such accolades – especially the ‘arguably’ – which often seems to be used as an rear-guarding caveat, for just about anything can be so described – but my interest in the literature of war; the even tenor of the introductions to the various sections of the anthology and the selection of poems were good enough for me to order Keith Douglas’s book from Amazon.

I found that reading material by a person whom you know was killed a short time later (Alamein took place in November 1942 and the author was killed in July 1944) was quite special but in a way I find difficult to define. I can however say that it’s very different from reading the memoirs of someone you know didn’t die until some considerable period of time after they had written a book e.g. Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe.

I wonder what the mechanics of setting down Alamein to Zem Zem were? At the very least he must have scribbled in down in a jotter and then passed it on to get written-up. Also, how did he manage to find time to write? There seems something of Isaac Rosenberg in his hurried scribblings, something quite noble.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gripping 1 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An outstanding and very personal exposition of life in a tank in combat in North Africa by an equally outstanding war poet...
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