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on 29 August 2012
Robert Graves' autobiographical masterpiece of a relatively privileged late Victorian-Edwardian life that like everyone's comes to be dominated by an immense human disaster is second to none because its content is the forerunner of the modern auto- and biography that follow.
We are used to to the near cliche view that the First World War caused a 'lost generation' of the cream of society, but it is Graves who is the first to express this idea with concise realism and conviction of one who experienced it and survived. In his clear, unambiguous style he depicts the calamity that befell the elite of Britain and Europe circa 1914-18. The catastophe of Trench Warfare is a first-hand account that sets the bar for the more learned Military-War Histories that now dominate the shelves.
As if that were not enough it is Graves' unflinching account of his own personal experiences pre, during and for a short while post-WW1 that brings a fresh, invigorating approach to writing an autobiography: The difficult relations with parents, spous and off-spring as well as the glimpses of the scholastic/social mores of life in Public School and University are given a compassionate but clear-eyed treatment. Not for Graves the rattling off of the great and good, though he knew a fair number, but at the really sharp end of muck, bayonet, bullet, blood and utter confusion that is the best laid plans of Rulers and Generals who saw men as pawns in their power-game.
The demise of the golden generation of Edwardian high society is encapsulated: The talents, shortcomings, fortitude and courage of Graves' peers as the toll of their lives goes on is not dealt with in isolation, for Graves also relates the similar array of all humanity's good and bad qualities amongst those so sadly at the time regarded as cannon-fodder. Robert Graves was among the first to sense the irreversible changes the Great War was bringing about and to set it down on paper when most were still considering what impact there might be.
'Goodbye To All That', indeed!
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on 3 September 2014
A very hard hitting and detailed personal recollection of the First World War. A very good read, and feel written.
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on 17 August 2014
Good service, as described
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