Literary ephemera produced during WWI & WWII?
November 28, 2008 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a particular kind of literary work produced in response to WWI & WWII.

Hi - Looking for more books in the vein of the following:

Cyril Connolly's The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus
Rene Char's Leaves of Hypnos
Kenneth Patchen's Journal of Albion Moonlight
Maurice Blanchot's The Writing of the Disaster

Non-fiction or fiction, written during or as a response to WWI and/or WWII. Works that are fragmented, not constituting fully realized forms or ideas (not looking for anything like Catch-22 or Naked & the Dead). Somewhat experimental. Diaries, journals, & so forth, anything with the flavor of ephemera.
posted by Hesychia to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Under Fire by Henri Barbusse (WW1)
posted by fire&wings at 6:15 PM on November 28, 2008

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (WW1)
posted by katemonster at 6:21 PM on November 28, 2008

I don't know if it counts as ephemera per se, but Robert Graves' autobiography Goodbye to All That covers WWI. He was friends with Wilfred Owen; some of the book is the most haunting stuff I've probably ever read.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:28 PM on November 28, 2008

Company K, by William March. He was there and ended up with PTSD after bayonetting a German soldier through the roof of the mouth. Later he went on to write The Bad Seed, but that has nothing to do with WWI.
posted by John of Michigan at 6:42 PM on November 28, 2008

Storm of Steel is another one, by Ernst J√ľnger. I have no idea how good this one is, though.
posted by John of Michigan at 6:46 PM on November 28, 2008

Does 'modernist' fit the sort of works you're looking for?

Christoper Isherwood's Berlin Stories
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:01 PM on November 28, 2008

Goodbye to all that is very good - but it's not emphemera. It was carefully constructed by Graves to make money.

I think you will have to look around the literature, since there are so many works like Graves' which have been conciously shaped and thought out. One place for references would be Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory in which he cites some well know, polished work, but also many diaries and fragmentary writing.

Also, have you thought of looking at sources like trench magasines, like the Wipers Times?
posted by jb at 9:21 PM on November 28, 2008

Some of Wolfgang Borchert's work collected in Das Gesamtwerk might fit the bill. He wrote tons of poems, essays, plays, etc.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:31 PM on November 28, 2008

The Separation by Christopher Priest. Starts as the story of twin brothers heading to row at the Nazi Olympics, and turns into an alt history/parallel-worlds mystery. Might have too strong a narrative thread for what you're after, but it's told as near stream-of-conciousness.
posted by rodgerd at 11:17 PM on November 28, 2008

thanks for all the responses.

modernist would fit the bill, too, although i already have Berlin Stories.
posted by Hesychia at 1:53 PM on November 29, 2008

For WWI, a lot of the seminal works of literary modernism have that 'fragmented' quality; e.g. Pound's Cantos or Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (which simulates the experience of a man suffering from shell-shock). The Journals of Arnold Bennett might also be of interest. However, the book that most closely fits your description is David Jones's In Parenthesis, a soldier's-eye view of the war which begins as prose and gradually fragments into free verse.

For WWII, the best place to look would be some of the literary magazines of the forties, particularly Connolly's Horizon and John Lehmann's Penguin New Writing. Henry Green's eve-of-war novel Party Going (1939) cultivates a clipped, elliptical, experimental style (it begins 'Fog was so dense, bird that had been disturbed went flat into a balustrade and slowly fell, dead, at her feet'); some of this style is carried over into his wartime novel Caught (1943), set in London during the Blitz.
posted by verstegan at 7:22 AM on November 30, 2008

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