Fitzgerald on war

Fitzgerald, 1921 Public Domain

From Tender is the Night:

‘There are lots of people dead since and we’ll all be dead soon,’ said Abe consolingly.
Rosemary waited tensely for Dick to continue.
‘See that little stream – we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk to it – a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly back-rd a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs. No European will ever do that again in this generation.’
‘Why, they’ve only just quit over in Turkey,’ said Abe. And in Morocco.”
That’s different. This western-front business couldn’t be me again, not for a long time. The young men think they could do it but they couldn’t. They could fight the first Marne again but not this. This took religion and years of plenty and tremendous sureties and the exact relation that ted between the classes. The Russians and Italians weren’t any good on this front. You had to have a whole-souled sentimental equipment going back further than you could remember. You had to remember Christmas, and postcards of the Crown Prince and his fiancee, and little cafes in Valence and beer gardens in Unter den Linden and wedding? at the mairie, and going to the Derby, and your grandfather’s whiskers.’
‘General Grant invented this kind of battle at Petersburg in sixty-five.’
‘No, he didn’t – he just invented mass butchery. This kind of battle was invented by Lewis Carroll and Jules Verne and whoever wrote Undine, and country deacons bowling and marraines in Marseilles and girls seduced in the back lanes of Wurttemberg and Westphalia.

Why, this was a love battle – there was a century of middle-class love spent here. This was the last love battle.’

‘You want to hand over this battle to D. H. Lawrence,’ said Abe. 

Confession: I haven’t yet read this book. I stumbled across the passage in a podcast. I just never considered Fitzgerald worth my time, and I was wrong. I read The Great Gatsby earlier this year on a lark, and I loved it.

I’ve been thinking about my own war experiences a lot lately, and how tumultouous my life was before and especially after. I left Baghdad after the Red Cross contacted me and told me my mother was dying. My relationship with her was strained and tainted with resentment for a few years. All things considered, I still “enjoyed” my deployment, as much as one could- I believed in the work I was doing. I thought I’d made lifelong friends, but I haven’t been in contact with any of them for years. However, we drew close during the shared experiences, the million little disappointments, the boredom, the moments of terror and confusion. I’d go back if I were doing the same type of work we were doing then, in Baghdad, 2006.


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