In Parenthesis (BBC Radio Collection) Audiobook
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Prose and verse based on Jones' experiences on the Western Front. Read by Richard Burton.
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What sets it apart in my opinion are three things;
Firstly it is undeniably and gloriously authentic. This is not someone blinded by emotion, either jingoism or fear, but someone who sat through the experience open eyed and concious throughout.
Secondly this isn't a personal account. It manages to feel utterly objective and utterly real without worrying about the author's peron. Somewhere in the blurb it talks about the writing being triple-distilled, which is a very good analogy for its clarity yet depersonalised style.
Finally the sense of meaning is marvellous - Christian and Arthurian, but also Classical and Valkerian, just a superb piece of rich, resonating purpose. The meaning it conveys to me is a sense that we matter, individually, no matter what - a religious hymn to humanity. A precis doesn't really work but read it and I think you'll understand what I mean.
The details of the soldier's life are presented unsentimentally, with a more realistic sense of army life arising than one might find in more ostensibly tragic poets such as Owen or Sassoon. At the same time, the brutality of war is brilliantly evoked in the climactic battle scene. The modernist flourishes (much praised by T.S. Eliot) are an important dimension in Jones's craft here, but he taps more explicitly into British legends than Eliot or Pound, and the national element becomes especially important to a work that draws on Shakespeare's "Henry V" as a picture of Britons at war in France.
Seventy years after publication, "In Parenthesis" remains the best known literary work by a poet-painter who has remained little known outside a circle of faithful devotees. It's tempting to think that this is largely due to its emotional core, and the fact that it can still tell us a great deal about a conflict that has become almost exhausted by cliche.
What makes it interesting is that it gives you the moment by moment sensations of being an infantryman in the Great War: the fragments of song and conversation, the sensations of being shelled or of just waking up in the trenches, with the whole business of trying to make a cup of tea and have something to eat.
It puts you inside the mind of a soldier; amazing, really.
The literary references are interesting as well, and made me want to reread the Morte D'Arthur of Malory.
There are many many better WW1 autobiographies . I know it's supposed to be a poem but oh dear ....
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