What struck me most about this novel narrated by a French infantryman of the intelligentsia is the utter isolation of his experience apart from his comrades. Yes, I know so far I'm not explaining myself well. Aside from a just a couple of comrades, Negre being one, the narrator experiences this universe of the absurd alone. We know his fellow infantrymen are near and that they share their bodily and psychic miseries, but the narrator doesn't draw us into these relationships or into these characters. The focus is solely on the narrator's personal relationship with Total War.
While reading this book, it seemed to me that the French infantryman was less well-provided for than his British counterpart, in terms of food, clothing, and other sustenance. I may be wrong in my interpretation, and I should study the facts. But the French war machine seemed less well-prepared to care for the men in extremis. I was shocked that in the Vosges mountain region that soldiers were expected to endure -25 to -35 degrees below zero. I'm assuming that's Fahrenheit? Was Celsius the norm in France in World War I? (If you know, I'd love the information. Obviously, I need to research that as well.) In any case, I know how extreme cold can fatigue the human body to a point where an individual ceases to care about anything, including his survival, very quickly. I was so surprised that it was that cold, and that they had to endure it without respite. When it is -25 below Fahrenheit here, everything stops.
I loved the narrator's rebellious, solitary nature and admired his sneering, scathing point of view of the military, the war machine, the governments involved, as his thinking evolved.
I feel Chevallier's voice is one of the very strongest in WWI literature. So why isn't he more popular? Yes, his work was censored during WWII, but it was available during the 1930s and after WWII. I wonder how popular it is in France, and in the rest of Europe.
The only copy of the novel that I could obtain was for my Nook. I found much text to highlight.
Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart
2 hours ago