Paul Fussell is dead. He left behind works on war that will outlast us all by many generations.  Below are a few of his thoughts about his role as a writer on the subject of war, informed by his own brutal experiences as a foot soldier in Europe in World War Two, and then, by returning home and sensing how the experiences of the war settled into the public consciousness. They form the opening paragraph, fittingly, of “Wartime.” 

This book is about the psychological and emotional culture of Americans and Britons during the Second World War. It is about the rationalizations and euphemisms people needed to deal with an unacceptable actuality from 1939 to 1945. And it is about the abnormally intense frustration of desire in wartime and some of the means by which desire was satisfied. The damage the war visited upon bodies and buildings, planes and tanks and ships, is obvious. Less obvious is the damage it did to intellect, discrimination, honesty, individuality, complexity, ambiguity, and irony, not to mention privacy and wit. For the past fifty years the Allied war has been sanitized and romanticized almost beyond recognition by the sentimental, the loony patriotic, the ignorant, and the bloodthirsty. I have tried to balance the scales.

Paul Fussell is dead. He left behind works on war that will outlast us all by many generations.  Below are a few of his thoughts about his role as a writer on the subject of war, informed by his own brutal experiences as a foot soldier in Europe in World War Two, and then, by returning home and sensing how the experiences of the war settled into the public consciousness. They form the opening paragraph, fittingly, of “Wartime.” 

This book is about the psychological and emotional culture of Americans and Britons during the Second World War. It is about the rationalizations and euphemisms people needed to deal with an unacceptable actuality from 1939 to 1945. And it is about the abnormally intense frustration of desire in wartime and some of the means by which desire was satisfied. The damage the war visited upon bodies and buildings, planes and tanks and ships, is obvious. Less obvious is the damage it did to intellect, discrimination, honesty, individuality, complexity, ambiguity, and irony, not to mention privacy and wit. For the past fifty years the Allied war has been sanitized and romanticized almost beyond recognition by the sentimental, the loony patriotic, the ignorant, and the bloodthirsty. I have tried to balance the scales.

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    Related articles Paul Fussell: Remember the dead but don’t honor war (seattletimes.nwsource.com) Paul Fussell (wnyc.org)...
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