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Under Fire [Paperback]

Henri Barbusse
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Oct 2010
This book follows a squad of French volunteer soldiers on the front in France after the German invasion. The book opens and ends with broad visions shared by multiple characters. The anecdotes are episodic in nature, each with an individual chapter title. In contrast to many war novels which came before it, Under Fire describes war in gritty and brutal realism.

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Under Fire + Storm of Steel (Penguin Modern Classics) + Undertones of War (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: BBBZ Books (21 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161720093X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1617200939
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 84,426 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


One of the most influential of all war novels (History Today) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Henri Barbusse (1873—1935) was a French novelist and a member of the French Communist Party. Barbusse first came to fame with the publication of his novel Le Feu (translated as Under Fire) in 1916, which was based on his experiences during World War I. By this time, Barbusse had become a pacifist, and his writing demonstrated his growing hatred of militarism. Le Feu drew criticism at the time for its harsh naturalism, but won the Prix Goncourt. In January, 1918 he left France and moved to the city of Moscow, Russia where he married a Russian woman and joined the Bolshevik Party. The novel Clarté is about an office worker who, while serving in the army, begins to realize that the imperialist war is a crime. The Russian Revolution had significant influence on the life and work of Barbusse. An associate of Romain Rolland and editor of Clarté, he attempted to define a proletarian literature, akin to Proletkult and Socialist realism. Barbusse was the author of a 1936 biography of Joseph Stalin, titled Staline: Un monde nouveau vu à travers un homme (Stalin. A New World Seen Through the Man). Barbusse subsequently led a violent press campaign against his former friend Panait Istrati - a Romanian writer who had expressed criticism of the Soviet state. Barbusse in turn was harshly criticized for his admiration of Stalin and his propagandistic activities on behalf of Soviet Russia by his former comrade Victor Serge, who noted that Barbusse had dedicated a book to Leon Trotsky before Stalin had definitively won the power struggle against Trotsky, only to denounce Trotsky as a traitor after the latter's fall from power. Serge called Barbusse a hypocrite who was determined to be on the winning side. Barbusse was an Esperantist, and was honorary president of the first congress of the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda. In 1921, he wrote an article for Esperanto journal, Esperantista Laboristo. ("Esperantist worker") While writing a second biography of Stalin in Moscow, Barbusse fell ill with pneumonia, and died on August 30, 1935. He is buried in Le Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. His grave has been vandalized in recent years, with many people mistaking his tombstone for Oscar Wilde's. In the foreword to I saw it Happen, a 1942 collection of eye-witness accounts of the war, Lewis Gannet wrote: "(...) We shall be hearing and reading of this war for decades to come. No one of us can yet guess who will be its Tolstoys, its Barbusses, its Remarques and its Hemingways". --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest - a classic. 10 May 2004
This was a great book. I have read many, to try to understand and remember what my recent ancestors endured. This is one of the four definitive memoirs or autobiographical novels I have read on the subject. The others are All quiet, Storm of Steel and Her Privates We.
Storm of Steel, whilst having a certain melancholy, could not be described as anti-war! Her Privates We takles the position that warfare is sometimes necessary. All Quiet is famously anti-war. Under Fire is anti war, anti capitalist, anti class system, in some ways anarchic.
Barbusse was already a recognised author when he started this novel, and he wrote much of it whilst still in the Trenches. In my opinion, the characteristic trait of this novel are the lucid, visual descriptions of the battles and the field in which they occurred as a barren, consuming hell of mud, fire and death, and the men as having been reduced to barbarous troglodytes by the unending and pitiless misery of their existence.
Perhaps only a mind in which the scars of such an experience were still fresh could have penned such descriptive prose. The opening passage, in which men descend inexorably upon France from all over Europe to fight each other is shocking and moving.
The final chapters, in which the ordinary poilus find themselves philosophising (believably)over war, then mass hallucinate as an army of warmongers materialises from all corners of the horizon and pushes back the sky even more so. A stunning vision, which brought a lump to my throat.
Thyis book was out of print for years, and who's to say it will remain in print. Robin Buss's tranlation does the book great justice, so buy it whilst you can.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Under Fire - published by WilderPublications 4 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Be warned of this edition of this classic book of First World War trench warfare. The translator of this edition wisely remained anonymous. The translation mangles the book. I struggled through the first four chapters, but it was just unreadable. Then a friend lent me the Penguin Classics edition, capably translated by Robin Buss, who captures the essence of the soldierly slang of the time. If you think to save money by buying the Wilder Publications edition, you will not. It is a complete waste of money. Buy the Penguin edition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great classic. 28 Jan 2013
I read this novel many years ago as part of the Open University's "War and Society" course. I was deeply moved at the time. I have just re-read it as background for a novel I myself am writing, and am even more affected now by Barbusse's chilling account of the Hell of the fighting on the Western Front.
If ever there was a book which so devastatingly portrays man's sheer stupidity, this is it. All the technological ingenuity and industrial might of many nations devoted to slaughtering each other's young men in their thousands. And to what end? Especially when one considers the irony that the ending of WW1 sowed the seeds for an even greater carnage twenty years later.
Grim reading perhaps. Not for the squeamish certainly. But a great great novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Under Fire translation by Wilder Publications 22 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have been desperately disappointed by this translation and had to buy a second proper translation (Penguin Modern Classics). This translation reads as if it was carried out by a computer programme and contains some sentences that do not make proper sense in English. Even the text is not justified but hangs left which seems bizarre for a published book.

I am reading the original French text and wanted a good translation to help with the tougher sections containing slang and jargon. This version is not it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Making nonsense in English, this French classic 15 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Google??? translation so bad that few of the sentences make any sense in English
I bought it to help me understand the French original
the gobbledegook was even harder to understand than the French 'patois' used so frequently in the French edition
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best? 25 April 2008
If you have any interest in the Great War whatsoever, then this book is a must. The best way of describing it is 'Faction'(ie the book is a work of Fiction, based on Barbusses personal experiences of the war - written whilst the war was still raging!)
I would put this book way above All quiet, Storm of Steel and Her Privates We. The differences between the attitudes of the German infantry and the humble Poilu is great. (read Ernst Junger)
This book should be made compulsory for all students studying this subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great memoire of a French soldier 1915. 23 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Thoughtful account of a French soldier's first 16 months in the trenches of WW1. Apart from the philosophising--Barbusse went on to emigrate to Soviet Russia-where he died, the book is a very earthy account of everyday life in the trenches seen from a French perspective. It evokes some of the themes of All Quiet on the Western Front and Birdsong, plus many other tracts about the horror that was trench warfare.
It gives a typically French view of life---the need for wine, bread and cheese all the way through to how to keep a pipe alight in torrential rain. I "enjoyed " it as a true account of a simple recruit's life in Belgium 1915. The descriptions of mud, lice, no food, the horrors of constant shelling, freezing winds, lack of supplies and the general inhumanity and futility of the war are outstanding. The English translation leaves you in no real need of a French vocabulary.

Certainly one to recommend if you want a different country's view on the debacle that was WW1--pity it stops in Dec 1915!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Gritty record of the war
Hav eyet to read but bought on basis of extract in "i" newspaper which was impressive with a gritty record of life at the front
Published 4 months ago by bryanr
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh insight
To read the French experience of WW1 has been an eye-opener for me. More concerned with the day to day struggles of the soldiers than with those, supposedly, 'in command', I loved... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Alice Servina
5.0 out of 5 stars Under Fire
A grim and controversial account of the life of a French 'Poilu' on the Western Front during The Great War. You can almost smell the mud and foulness of the battlefield.
Published on 19 Sep 2011 by Mr. W. J. Neil
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Great War reads
If you like me have read loads of doco books and real accounts on the Great War it becomes difficult to find a new read, this book is so so good , it is rare to find a Poilu's... Read more
Published on 12 Mar 2011 by Mr. Daniel King
3.0 out of 5 stars Remember, it is fiction, not war reportage or a literally factual...
The introduction to "Under Fire" tells us that the book was overwhelmingly well received at the time of publication and was read widely all over Europe. Read more
Published on 18 Jan 2011 by Red Eyes
3.0 out of 5 stars Unrelentingly Grim
I have to admit I struggled with this. Although a relatively short book at a little over 300 pages the content got underway with a grim depiction of hell in the trenches and... Read more
Published on 8 Dec 2010 by anicoll5
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This book is a must-read for people interested in learning about the experience of world war one.
It covers all aspects of the ordinary Poilu's life (leave, reserve,... Read more
Published on 11 Nov 2010 by D. Spencer
5.0 out of 5 stars under fire
this is a good adjusted translation and a must reed. Written in 1917 it narates the horror of war in general and WW I in special.
Published on 11 Jun 2009 by heliogabalus
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