It is alive!
The Great War, the book, is alive!
You will excuse me if I make such a fuss, but I’m so excited. This is a one-year project that I started working on in the worst phase of the pandemic at the end of last year. This might be one of the reasons why I’m so emotional about it.
I had wanted to write something about WWI for a few years, but I always told myself that I wasn’t ready. Then last April, I thought, “I’m not ready is the surest way to get nothing done”, and I dived into the AtoZ Challenge with this subject.
It was a journey!
Researching is always a journey, but in this case, it was something special. Learning about WWI, at this moment, gave me much on an emotional level. I never expected it.
The Great War was not about battles, or conquests, or political moves. Sure, it was that too, of course. But I think its biggest legacy concerns humanity. The Great War was, above all, about human beings: their fears and their dreams, their flaws and their qualities, their strength and their vulnerability. This may be true about all wars, but I think it was particularly true for WWI. It was the first mechanised war, the first industrial war, but it was naked humanity that was at its heart.
In this sense, it has a lot to teach us about humanity and pity. I certainly learned a lot while researching this book.
WWI exposed the vulnerability of human beings like never before and therefore allowed humanity to come to the fore like it rarely happened before or after.
This is especially epitomised by the soldiers’ experience, which then touched all strata and sectors of society. Indeed, the experience of the common soldier and the volunteers who surrounded him – who were very often women – is at the centre of my book. I wanted it to be about them. Thrown into a situation they had no means to manage effectively, the soldiers in the trenches had to find a way. Sometimes, they had to invent it. Some other times, they had to accept social situations that were considered inappropriate by the society they come from. All this to have a chance at surviving, not just physically, but also – I would argue, especially – emotionally. The mechanised war stripped them of so many social mores and accepted behaviours that it brought them to the very edge of humanity. They had to shed all those cultural structures to look their vulnerability in the face, realise what being human means and find a way to work with that naked humanity.
This is what I find so deeply touching about the Great War.
It was a war between equals, where all parts adhered to the same basic principles and values. This was its very own tragedy. A true enemy was missing to the point that propaganda had to invent it. Under this perspective, WWI really didn’t have sense, and from the many testimonies in letters and diaries, we know that is how the soldiers felt. And it was not just their own experience. The ’emeny’ who was fighting in the same conditions was sometimes closer to the trench soldiers than the high brasses who plaid strategies and tactics away from the front.
The Great War was a conflict opposing people who didn’t have any real reason to war against each other.
We call it the Great War, but it isn’t about war. It’s about being human.
Therefore, it doesn’t matter that it happened more than a century ago.
I often say it: I love history because it tells about us. It is not about people who lived so long ago. Or better, it is. But those people have much in common with us, especially on a profound level. It is certainly true for the Great War.
So, this book is my tiny homage to all the people who fought in it and to the legacy they left us. A very precious legacy if we care to look into it.
Shari Decter Hirst
Congratulations, Sarah… so exciting. And what an accomplishment. I’ve ordered the book and today (Remembrance Day here in Canada) is the perfect day to start reading.
Thanks so much for your support, Shari. It means a lot to me 🙂
Congratulations, Sarah! Very happy for you!
Oh my! I see now that you’re back to blogging! I’m so happy! 🙂
Roland R Clarke
Congratulations, Sarah. I’ve followed your journey with this book for a few years, so I look forward to adding it to me ‘History’ library. I’ve been fascinated by the Great War era for decades, and your perspective add to all I’ve learnt. Thank you.
What a pleasure to see you here, Roland 🙂
I need to catch up with you, as with so many other friends. Life has been very busy, lately, but this is no excuse.
Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies
Wow, how exciting! Congratulations!
Thanks, Lisa! I am excited! 🙂
Roland R Clarke
As busy/health issues have made my online activity dwindle, no excuse is needed, Sarah. Just glad I got back – and I’ve started reading your book.