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The experience of a front line soldier during World War One
on 30 January 2014
Ernst Jünger's account of his years fighting as a German soldier on the Western Front during World War One is one of the most graphic I have ever read in terms of descriptions of injuries and violence. That said, much of a soldier's life is routine and boring, and Jünger covers this aspect too.
I was surprised by Jünger's matter-of-factness. Although the book is all written in the first person it all feels at one remove. Jünger is a consummate professional, accepting everything that comes his way. Even when learning that his brother lies injured nearby he acknowledges some distress but, having done what he can, returns to the fray with barely a pause.
Jünger's sense of detachment meant the narrative was less involving, despite the visceral nature of much of what Jünger describes, and as such it is a far less successful memoir than, say, "Goodbye to All That" by Robert Graves in which I felt I got to know and understand the person as well as the soldier. That said, anyone seeking to gain an insight into the experience of a front line soldier during World War One will do well to find a better account.