Friday, November 18, 2005

Where's the Love?

After searching online databases, the SFU library, and the internet, I noticed that there was very little available information regarding The General. The only book I could find on the subject was a biography of Forester, by Sanford Sternlicht, which comments briefly on all his works. It includes a few pages about the The General, however, there was a lot more information about the Hornblower series, in the book and in other sources. I started to wonder why this was, but I still do not have a complete answer.

The General is a brilliant novel, which relies on the art of storytelling in order to illuminate one of the reasons why the war happened the way that it did. The characterization of Curzon is wonderful and the descriptions of battle are engaging, yet, the book does not seem to be widely regarded as an important piece of literature because it has not won any awards, and as mentioned in class, it is rarely taught in schools. I think perhaps it may partly have to do with the unwillingness of people to deal with issues surrounding World War One. Even when I was in high school, this world-changing event was quickly glossed over, leaving students a little dazed and confused. Also, there does not seem to be a specific cause, but Forester's work points a critical finger towards generals like Curzon. It contains messages that may be a little frightening or alarming to some people. For instance, Forester seems to be blaming patriotism as a detrimental feature of the war because people like Curzon did what they were told since they thought it was for the good of the country. Also, thousands of people voluntarily put themselves into the war out of a sense of duty to Britain. There seems to be a condemnation of leadership as well, which was mentioned in class very briefly. So, to some, these ideas would be disturbing, and Britain would not want to teach a book, or give it recognition if people interpreted its meaning very simplistically as "patriotism and the leaders of the country are bad." By the time World War Two rolled around, Hitler was using the book against Britain, as mentioned in a previous post, and Lord Haw Haw, a British traitor was broadcasting passages from it to the army and the rest of England (Sternlicht 32). This probably explains why it was not a popular work immediately following the second war. I am still curious what other people think regarding this topic.


Blogger Lisa Moxon said...

Hi Candice,
You made a comment in this post that made me think. Do we really not want to deal with the issues surrounding WWI, or do we just not have time? Think back to your grade 12 history class, or a survey class that you might have taken at SFU (SFU's History department only offers one 400-level class on WWI called "The Impact of the Great War," none of the courses deal directly with the causes of the war or with the war itself). Quite often, we are forced to crush the entire 20th century into one semester: Two weeks for the Russian Revolution, Two weeks for WWI, Two weeks for the inter-war period, Two weeks for WWII, etc... I would suggest that it is not so much our unwillingness to deal with the issues of WWI, as it is that we just have so much more to talk about. And, WWI is generally seen as a less complicated affair (Gavrillo Princip shot Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, and the War started!) but we know there is much more to it. WWII gets way more attention than WWI, perhaps because there is still so much controversy surrounding it or perhaps because it is still relatively recent. I'm sure many of us still have grandparents that tell us what it was like to during WWII; we can't ask "What did you do in (WWI), Daddy?"
I completely agree with you that Forester does offer reasons why/how the British fought in the war, and that these reasons are somewhat critical. Perhaps they contradict our neat understanding of the events of the WWI, and that's what people are unwilling to deal with?

Saturday, November 19, 2005 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Candice said...

It is true that we really do not have anyone left to directly talk to about experiences during WW1. I read in the paper the other day that there are only 5 Canadian Veterans from that war that are still alive. On another note....I went to to see if anyone had commented on The General, and, to my surprise, there were seven people who actually commented on the book! Every one of them gave it five out of five stars, which shows that at least some people are still appreciating this novel, however, in the British version of the site,, there are no comments at all. I'm not quite sure what that means exactly.

Monday, November 21, 2005 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Moxon said...

As a follow-up to your original post, Candice, I found this quote from C.S. Forester on (sorry, no dates or other details provided):

"When I die there may be a paragraph or two in the newspapers. My name will linger in the British Museum Reading Room catalogue for a space at the head of a long list of books for which no one will ever ask."

Sunday, December 04, 2005 4:25:00 PM  

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