A Muse of Fire

A neat formulation would be that for the French the First World War was something they survived, for the British something they handled, for the Italians something they proved themselves at, for the Austrians something they lost, for the Hungarians something the Austrians lost, for the Germans something that taught them to be stronger.

That is just one of the aphorisms in A Muse of Fire: Literature, Art and War (1998 ) by A.D.Harvey. It is a survey of art and literature about war from the Renaissance to 1945, but with a major emphasis on the Great War. It is a most engaging, and sometimes unorthodox book, full of digressions – did you know, for example, that:

Twenty-two soldiers in the British and British Empire forces won the V.C. by their prowess with the revolver or automatic pistol; ninety-seven won it by their skill with that coarsest of weapons, the hand grenade.

For me, the most useful parts of the book are those in which British literature is compared with that of other countries. Harvey writes confidently about work in French, German and Danish, and seems to have a sound command of Russian literature, too.

Highly recommended.

Post a Comment

%d bloggers like this: