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War Stories Paperback – 2 Sep 1999

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Paperback Edition edition (2 Sep 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099268620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099268628
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 938,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sebastian Faulks was born in April 1953. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1991, he worked as a journalist. His French trilogy - The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray (1989-1997) - established him in the front rank of British novelists. UK sales of Birdsong exceed 2,500,000 copies, and for this novel he was named "Author of the Year" by the British Book Awards in 1995. It is regularly voted one of the nation's favourite books. Charlotte Gray has also sold over a million copies and was filmed with Cate Blanchett in the main part.

Product Description


"The range is international, the impeccable standards of writing never dip. This is some of the finest writing about war" (Independent on Sunday)

"An anthology that tries, in a century that has made an art form of killing, to make sense of it all" (Guardian)

"A substantial and compelling read" (Metro) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

‘An anthology that tries, at the close of a century that has made an art-form of killing, to make sense of it all.’ Guardian

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. R. S. Morrison on 17 Sep 2008
Format: Paperback
There's nothing wrong with the writing or the writers assembled here, but this is not a book of war stories. It's made up almost entirely of extracts from novels--pieces never meant to be read in isolation, and not designed to stand on their own as stories. Not what the cover claims!
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jason Parkes #1 HALL OF FAME on 11 Sep 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Sebastian Faulks ('Birdsong', 'Charlotte Gray')and Jorg Hensgen have compiled a riveting anthology of war-writings in this book which accompanies a series of Vintage Classics centred on war (titles such as 'The Dark Room', 'Sophie's Choice', 'The Tin Drum', 'All Quiet on the Western Front' & 'The Sorrow of War'). Personally, I love anthologies - as they're satisfying in themselves to dip in and out of - and you're likely to discover some previously unfamiliar text (the handy 'Select Bibliography' is also helpful in this way).
I was familiar with some of these texts - Celine's briliant 'Journey to the End of the Night' (Kurt Vonnegut's piece on him in 'Palm Sunday' contextualises his brilliant-art against his dubious life), 'All Quiet on the Western Front', the great excerpt from 'A Very Long Engagement' (while not a bad film, much more satisfying book), 'The Thin Red Line', Vonnegut's Dresden-piece from 'Palm Sunday' (which probably ought to be included in the next reprint of 'Slaughterhouse-Five'), 'The English Patient', 'The Naked and the Dead' and Fowles' 'The Magus' - whose excerpt here alongside Shusaku Endo's 'We Are About to Kill a Man' is as bleak as it gets (though 'The Magus' excerpt coming after the 'Captain Corelli' piece confuses the fact the latter was heavily influenced by the former!).
There is a rich wealth of voices here, from Elizabeth Bowen's London-piece to Joseph Heller's 'Catch 22'-related memoir, to writers on more recent wars such as Tim O'Brien (here we get 'How To Tell a True War Story', which makes a change from the over-anthologised 'The Things They Carried'), Philip Caputo, Christopher J. Koch & Bao Ninh.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mullee on 16 Sep 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Its really difficult to understand what the purpose of this book is. It has a theme, but swings violently to its extremes. Personally I believe that its an unnecessary work.
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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A Cast of Notable Writers Escort You to the Hell of War 29 Jan 2005
By Bohdan Kot - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The Vintage Book of War Fiction" spans the twentieth century from WWI, The Russian Revolution, The Spanish Civil War, WWII, The Korean War, and The Vietnam War to The Gulf War. The editors, Sebastian Faulks, a journalist and author of Charlotte Gray, and Jorg Hensgen, have done an excellent job of picking a star-studded cast of writers to illuminate the topic of war-Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, and Joseph Heller are some of the forty writers. But beware, reading this collection is more gloomy and full of despair than the depression wing of a Seattle psychiatric ward during its rainy season.

Despite its title, The Vintage Book of War Fiction has numerous offerings from writers who have been on the frontlines. Perusing the biographical selection one notices that some of the writing is not fiction but instead autobiographical. Vonnegut wrote the classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five based on his experiences as a prisoner of war viewing the destruction of Dresden by the Allied forces.

The horrors, maladies, rapes, destruction, bizarre humor and so on of war are present here in vivid color. Hiroshima Joe by Martin Booth graphically transports us to Hiroshima right after the nuclear bomb dropped. "On the floor of the tram cabin was a partly congealed liquid slush of greyish-brown matter in which lay some broken branches, stripped bare of their bark. It was more than a minute before he realized that the floor-covering had been people, the branches nude bones."

These stories are compelling, but they are also repelling, grotesque. But one continues reading; we are pushed forward by the same impulse that strains our neck to see a recent car accident. Faulks says, "Has ever there been such century for killing as the one we have just endured?" The collection is splendid because it illustrates the sheer carnage and the psychological bruises in an honest, thought-provoking manner. John Horne Burns says, "Then humanity fell away from me like the rind of an orange, and I was something much more and much less than myself . . ."

Yes, you will feel the intensity of experiencing the war and its aftermath up-close as if watching an IMAX in one's mind thanks to the cornucopia of superb writers. But the good listener will also digest the excerpts as a cautionary tale and fervently understand that man must be peaceful to continue and prosper in our present nuclear age.

Bohdan Kot
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Worthwhile 12 Dec 2012
By Reader in Tokyo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book was published in 1999 and contained 40 works by as many authors. The coverage was almost entirely the wars in 20th century Europe (mainly World War I and its aftermath, and World War II), together with some attention to the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf War.

The point of view was often English or American, with more than half of the writers from the UK or the US. A handful came from France, Germany and Australia. Represented by one selection each were Russia, Italy, Greece, Ireland, Canada, Japan and Vietnam. The works ranged from the 1920s to the 90s, with about half published in the 80s and 90s.

The introduction announced a preference for novels over memoirs, and all but a handful of the pieces were excerpts from novels. A few others could be called mainly autobiographical: Sassoon on World War I, John Horne Burns on postwar Naples, Laurie Lee's fixation on romance during the Spanish Civil War, and Christopher Farley on journalists' search for stories during the Gulf War. In place of excerpts from Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-Five, there were autobiographical essays by Heller and Vonnegut. Three of the works (Isaac Babel, Kay Boyle, Tim O'Brien) were short stories. The focus mainly on fiction set this book apart from most other anthologies on war, which usually contain more nonfiction.

Themes naturally included introduction to the battlefield, the heat and terror of combat. But the editors tried also to show aspects such as civilian attitudes toward defeat (Boyle, Bowen, Curtis), a soldier with his lover before returning the front (Hemingway), ocean convoys (MacLean), code-breaking (Robert Harris), war in the air (Salter), the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (Booth), vivisection on Allied prisoners (Endo), journalists in wartime (Koch, Farley) and the wounded (Heinemann). A few dealt with postwar realities, such as an SS general who couldn't accept the return to peace (Koeppen), the betrayal of U.S. ideals in postwar Naples (Burns), North Vietnamese soldiers recovering the dead (Bao Ninh) and, among other things, the ways to communicate the reality of war to civilians (O'Brien). Missing from the collection were ideals like patriotism, or coverage of the political choices and stupidities that led to war.

For this reader, the most memorable selections were Celine and Chatwin on World War I (Journey to the End of the Night, On the Black Hill), James Jones, John Fowles, Vonnegut, Begley and Heinrich Boll on World War II (The Thin Red Line, The Magus, Palm Sunday, Wartime Lies, The Silent Angel), and Tim O'Brien on Vietnam (The Things They Carried). For me, these succeeded best in showing things like the absurdity, intensity, dilemmas and personal conflicts, and the postwar coming to terms.

Other excerpts in the book paled in comparison with writing in, say, Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves, Catch-22, or Homage to Catalonia by Orwell. Also missing from the collection were writers like Hasek, Joseph Roth, Gunther Grass, J.G. Farrell, and Curzio Malaparte, and Russians like Solzhenitsyn, Mikhail Sholokhov, Vasily Grossman or Konstantin Simonov. Much larger anthologies like Paul Fussell's The Norton Book of Modern War (aka The Bloody Game) (1991) and Alexander Calder's Wars (1999) ranged more widely in terms of selections, regions and authors, and for this reader had even more cumulative power.

Excerpts from this collection:

"Atrocities celebrate meaninglessness, surely."

"War is hell, but that's not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead. The truths are contradictory. It can be argued, for instance, that war is grotesque. But in truth war is also beauty. For all its horror, you can't help but gape at the awful majesty of combat."

"You feel an intense, out-of-the-skin awareness of your living self -- your truest self, the human being you want to be and then become by the force of wanting it. In the midst of evil you want to be a good man . . . you feel wonder and awe at the setting of the sun, and you are filled with a hard, aching love for how the world could be and always should be, but now is not."

"He still did not know what he really felt . . . But he realized now, quite suddenly, that he could survive the killing of many men. Because already the immediacy of the act itself, only minutes ago so very sharp, was fading. He could look at it now without pain, perhaps even with pride, in a way, because now it was only an idea like a scene in a play, and did not really hurt anyone."

"I beg you in the name of European civilization to stop this barbarity."

"And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight . . . It's about love and memory. It's about sorrow. It's about sisters who don't write back and people who never listen."
War it's the old,old story. 26 April 2014
By Leslie Thomas McGann - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the progression of the stories through the world conflicts and how each one confirmed my opinion of the futility of war, which I suppose is the purpose of the book. However, even with such a great writer as Sebastian Faulks, it did lose a little pace and substance due to the nature of this sort of work, which, is after all just a list of stories, tragic as they maybe on a human front, but a bit like watching all the goals from last weeks football matches, all dramatic and glorious in their own right,Wa but lacking the connective tissue, which is the game.
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