Robert Graves on Crozier and on War Fiction

In a letter responding to the Times Literary Supplement’s rather grudging account of Crozier’s A Brass Hat in No Man’s Land, Robert Graves wrote (26 June, 1930):

That a senior officer of his distinction had turned King’s Evidence against modern war was an event that should have been more attentively greeted.

He defends Crozier against charges of inaccuracy with this ingenious argument:

I would even paradoxically say that the memoirs of a man who went through some of the worst experiences of trench warfare are not truthful if they do not contain a high proportion of falsities. High-explosive barrages will make a temporary liar or visionary out of anyone.

(Should we read this as a defence of the inaccuracies and manipulations of the facts in his own Goodbye to All That?)

In a review of Crozier’s book for the magazine Now and Then, he wrote:

He speaks of his own war-mentality with a candour that compels the greatest admiration [….] it is the only account of fighting on the Western Front that I have been able to read with sustained interest and respect.

I suspect that what he liked about Crozier’s book was its relative freedom from cliché. Of the general run of war novels he wrote in the TLS:

They treat the already classical theme of fire-eating officer and sullen men, drunken officer and gallant men, fraternisation of mortally-wounded soldiers in no-man’s-land or unjust Court-martial on the supposed coward, in the same free way as the murdered financier, stupid village-constable, cigarette-stub in the garden, suspected hero themes are treated by detective writers.

That was in 1930 – and the exactly the same clichés can still be found merrily proliferating in war novels published seventy or eighty years later…

Post a Comment

%d bloggers like this: