1. All Quiet On The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque – Perhaps the most breathtaking anti-war story ever written.
“In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their chauvinistic schoolteacher to troop off to the “glorious war”. With the fore and patriotism of youth they sign up. Their disenchantment begins during the brutal basic training and then, as they board the train to the front, they see the terrible injuries suffered on the front line – their first glimpse of the reality of war.”
2. A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway – He manages to say so much with so few words, Hemingway is the master of minimalist literature.
“In 1918 Ernest Hemingway went to war, to the ‘war to end all wars’. He volunteered for ambulance service in Italy, was wounded and twice decorated. Out of his experiences came A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway’s description of war is unforgettable. He recreates the fear, the comradeship, the courage of his young American volunteer and the men and women he meets in Italy with total conviction. But A Farewell to Arms is not only a novel of war. In it Hemingway has also created a love story of immense drama and uncompromising passion.”
3. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegurt – An epic undertaking, Vonnegurt weaves a brilliant mixture of war time memoir and science fiction tale.
“Kurt Vonnegut’s absurdist classic ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut’s) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.”
4. The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig – This is children’s literature and I admit that I havent read it since I was in my early teens, but it has remained vivid in my memory ever since.
“It is June 1941. The Rudomin family has been arrested by the Russians. They are “capitalist enemies of the people.” Forced from their home and friends in Vilna, Poland, they are herded into crowded cattle cars. Their destination: the endless steppe of Siberia. For five years, Esther and her family live in exile, weeding potato fields and working in the mines, struggling for enough food and clothing to stay alive. Only the strength of family sustains them and gives them hope for the future.”
5. Anthem for Doomed Youth: Poets of the Great War By Lyn Macdonald (Editor) – I think this Anthology from the Folio Society is out of print, so Ive listed a few of my favourite poets and their work. The photo below is from Australian World War One Photos.
Wilfred Owen – Dulce et Decorum Est / Anthem for Doomed Youth / Exposure
W.H. Auden – Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone
Sigfried Sassoon – To One Who was With Me in the War / Attack / Base Details
Rupert Brooke – The Soldier
Ewart Alan Mackintosh – Ghosts of War /Death
Charles Hamilton Sorley – When You See the Millions of Mouthless Dead / All the Hills and Vales Along
Frederic Manning – Grotesque
John McCrae – In Flanders Fields