How Writers Brought the Brutality of World War II to Light
John R. Carpenter
- 304 Pages
- November 14, 2017
- ISBN: 9781510725898
- Trim Size: 6in x 9in
It has been said that during times of war, the Muses fall silent. However, anyone who has read the major figures of mid-twentieth-century literature—Samuel Beckett, Richard Hillary, Norman Mailer, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, and others—can attest that it was through writing that people first tried to communicate and process the horrors that they saw during one of the darkest times in human history even as it broke out and raged on around them.
In Bearing Witness, John Carpenter explores how across the world those who experienced the war tried to make sense of it both during and in its immediate aftermath. Writers such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Theodore Plievier questioned the ruling parties of the time based on what they saw. Correspondents and writer-soldiers like John Hersey and James Jones revealed the chaotic and bloody reality of the front lines to the public. And civilians, many of who remain anonymous, lent voice to occupation and imprisonment so that those who didn’t survive would not be forgotten.
The digestion of a cataclysmic event can take generations. But in this fascinating book, Carpenter brings together all those who did their best to communicate what they saw in the moment so that it could never be lost.
“An examination of the seminal works of World War II, many of which opened eyes to truth by eyewitnesses.” —Kirkus
“World War II and its consequences will not leave our consciousness and sense of civilization; the question of the circumstances under which the best writers made their voices heard remains as urgent today as it ever was. John R. Carpenter is to be congratulated on his detailed and courageous refutation of the often heard saw that in wartime, the Muses are silent. His book belongs in all academic as well as public collections.” —Emery George, poet and editor of Contemporary East European Poetry
“John Carpenter’s Bearing Witness is the story of writing, and the urgency of communication, during World War II. This fascinating and engaging account discusses work from many nations and touches on a wide variety of examples, from sophisticated literature to scrawled notes thrown by prisoners from trains. The pages dealing with the war’s role in fostering distrust of rhetoric, euphemism, and abstraction are especially timely in this era of marketing and political newspeak.” —Philip Fried, poet and editor of the Manhattan Review