Customer Review

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and challenging., 10 Mar 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Canto) (Paperback)
This most important and very well written book challenges the predominant tradition in the (Anglo-Saxon) cultural history of the First World War that considers the war as a fundamental and abrupt caesura in European cultural history, giving birth to modernity. This view is exemplified by much-read and hugely influential books as Fussell's seminal 'The Great War and Modern Memory', Hynes' 'A War Imagined' and Eksteins' 'Rites of Spring'. In contrast with these works, Winter carefully avoids taking elite culture and art developments for changes in the society at large. His focus is on the everyday lived effects that the war produced all over Europe: the problem of how to overcome the trauma of war and come to terms with the grief felt by the unprecedented loss of kin and friends. The major argument is that traditional idioms were still capable of giving sense to the slaughter and thus warding off a symbolic collapse; more modernist idioms that stressed the senselessness of war, in contrast, could not heal the trauma. Winter's point is very well developed, using a broad range of examples and resources. Another major achievement is putting monuments (sites of memory) in their contemporary lived social and cultural context, seeing them first and foremost as sites of mourning, rather than viewing them as expressions of patriotism or pacifism. Although the link between the first and the second world war in Germany could have been more developed, the explicitly comparative perspective (restricted to Britain, France and Germany) is extremely valuable, and much-needed. A must-have-read.
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