Friday, March 21, 2014
Evanston: STORM OF STEEL; 'P'
Taking another book off my shelves to reread, I just finished STORM OF STEEL, Ernst Junger’s account of his experiences in the First World War.
I wrote of this book, which has been called “the finest book on war” by no less than André Gide almost seven years ago. If you go to that post you’ll get the bonus of a nice photo of Carol.
If anything, I was even more impressed by my second reading. Junger matter-of-factly, without exaggeration, posturing or self-aggrandizement, makes men living, and, mostly, dying, in the insanity of war seem normal.
There were afternoons when he “worked on my tan” in craters during artillery bombardments with shrapnel whizzing just above.
I wrote earlier that it was amazing that he survived four years of combat. I think he was amazed, too.
Lying in bed recovering from what would prove to be his final wound, he recalled that he had been “hit at least fourteen times, these being five bullets, two shell splinters, one shrapnel ball, four hand-grenade splinters and two bullet splinters, which, with entry and exit wounds, left me an even twenty scars. In the course of this war, where so much of the firing was done blindly into empty space, I still managed to get myself targeted no fewer than eleven times. I felt every justification, therefore, in donning the gold wound-stripes, which arrived for me one day.”
The book is still available in paperback, but also in a free PDF that can be downloaded here.
From THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY:
There is a plethora of ‘P’s’. Only with difficulty did I reduce them to these.
painting: the art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic. Formerly, painting and sculpture were combined in the same work: the ancients painted their statues. The only present alliance between the two arts is that the modern painter chisels his patrons.
pandemonium: literally, The Place of All the Demons. Most of them have escaped into politics and finance.
peace: in international affairs, a period of cheating between two periods of fighting.
pedigree: the known part of the route from an arboreal ancestor with a swim bladder to an urban descendent with a cigarette.
philanthropist: A rich (and usually bald) old gentleman who has trained himself to grin while his conscience is picking his pocket.
philosophy: a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.
(Compare my definition of philosophy: good questions; bad answers.)
phonograph: an irritating toy that restores life to dead noises.
plan: to bother about the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.
plebiscite: a popular vote to ascertain the will of the sovereign.
politics: the strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
positive: mistaken at the top of one's voice.
prerogative: a sovereign’s right to do wrong.
present: that part of eternity dividing the domain of disappointment from the realm of hope.