What is it about war that remains so compelling? Well, let’s state the obvious—war is about as far removed from day-to-day existence as you can get.
It’s humanity having breached madness and the ensuing carnage that follows. And Ernst Jünger’s (1895-1998) gripping memoir is as dramatic and fearsome as they come.
Storm of Steel
What do you do for breakfast each morning? You no doubt have a set food routine.
During war time it’d be the same, except there’d be constant explosions, corpses blocking the cornflakes, screams of mortified agony, shattered bones sticking out of the tea pot, a fizzing nuclear warhead in one corner, and you’d probably be missing at least one limb. All very bloody annoying first thing, right?
Gallows humour, sir. Keeps the old spirit up, what what. It certainly helped the poor bastards who had to endure the mindless insanity of World War I, which is all recalled in vivid detail in this highly celebrated piece of non-fiction from Ernst Jünger.
If you’ve read something such as Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front, or pretty much any intelligent book on war, you’ll know what’s in store.
Tales of fear, death, heroism, humour, and the existential angst of war itself. What helps Jünger’s tale stand out is the compelling writing style—boy could he write. It was his career after the war.
It’s his exceptional prose which really lifts this story of youthful endeavour in a time of chaos. By the end of the first chapter you’re in the trenches with the man and his company, stuck in the absurd boredom of wartime existence.
The author does not hold back on relaying the absolute horror of war. From immediately fatal head shots, to agonising wounds, the details are laid bare and you’ve got to stomach the brutality.
The reader is sucked back in time to a century ago to the men who went up against bullets, bombs, and mayhem, with one of the lucky survivors somehow coming out of the other side to write a book like this.
100 years on we may read it and revel at an extraordinarily repulsive moment in history. Let’s try and avoid WWIII, eh? Onward, humanity!
WWI in Literature
For the survivors of war, one of the first instincts in the aftermath is to jot down their account. And rightly so, we believe, as war is hell.
Along with All Quiet on the Western Front we suggest Storm of Steel is one of the essential WWI reads.
But we feel In Flanders Field is also a fine effort, from Leon Wolff. He was a writer not in WWI—and who we can’t find any information on at all.
But he was so moved by its violent history, he penned that highly impressive work.
There are many other accounts, of course. Talented wordsmiths who penned many a fine work.
We think it’s important to honour their sacrifices to keep them in print. And to continue writing about the horror of world at war. Why? So it doesn’t happen again.