20th Century Goodbye To All That (Twentieth Century Classics)

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9780140180985: 20th Century Goodbye To All That (Twentieth Century Classics)

Melding the personal with the political, Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That is both a literary masterpiece and the definitive account of the horrors of World War I. Using anecdotes from his own life prior to his enlistment in the army—his upper-crust upbringing, his privileged private school education—Graves illustrates the stark contrast between life in the trenches and life at home. Like many other soldiers who suffered appalling conditions and witnessed the tragic and ignorant blunders of senior military figures while on the front line, Graves returned to England a haunted man, forever disillusioned with the hypocrisy of traditional British values. First published in 1929, Goodbye to All That is a cathartic and candid look at Britain's involvement in WWI. Intense, unsettling, and enlightening, this compelling memoir is vital to understanding not only the battles of the First World War, but the events and social attitudes of the Jazz Age and beyond.

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Review:

The quintessential memoir of the generation of Englishmen who suffered in World War I is among the bitterest autobiographies ever written. Robert Graves's stripped-to-the-bone prose seethes with contempt for his class, his country, his military superiors, and the civilians who mindlessly cheered the carnage from the safety of home. His portrait of the stupidity and petty cruelties endemic in England's elite schools is almost as scathing as his depiction of trench warfare. Nothing could equal Graves's bone-chilling litany of meaningless death, horrific encounters with gruesomely decaying corpses, and even more appalling confrontations with the callousness and arrogance of the military command. Yet this scarifying book is consistently enthralling. Graves is a superb storyteller, and there's clearly something liberating about burning all your bridges at 34 (his age when Good-Bye to All That was first published in 1929). He conveys that feeling of exhilaration to his readers in a pell-mell rush of words that remains supremely lucid. Better known as a poet, historical novelist, and critic, Graves in this one work seems more like an English Hemingway, paring his prose to the minimum and eschewing all editorializing because it would bring him down to the level of the phrase- and war-mongers he despises. --Wendy Smith

From the Publisher:

English novelist, poet, and essayist Graves, author of I, Claudius describes the break he made with his past in 1929. In chronicling his youth, World War I experiences, and years at Oxford, Graves gives parallel accounts of the end of his own innocence and that of the world prior to the Great War.

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