Sunday, April 09, 2006

Just watching Blackadder is not enough

If you liked Kubrick's best movie, which is of course Paths of Glory, then I have a book for you, Price of Glory. Very similar names, somewhat similar subject matter. The movie concerns a sham trial of three French soliders randomly being tried for cowardice to cover up Army incompetence. The book is about the Battle of Verdun, which in a few months killed 160,000 Frenchmen. That's three times bigger than ten year's toll of Americans in Vietnam.

While the book is military history, it avoids (for the most part) the "XIII Corps moved NE to engage the German VI Corps" business that makes military history so hard to engage. It focuses instead on smaller events that illustrate the horror of the battle like Frenchmen defending a fort for days without water while Germans shoot flamethrowers at them. It also gives a nuanced view of how the personalities of the German and French leaders contributed to the outcomes. Since the US didn't do so much in the WWI, and since WW2 had it's own special horrors, Americans know a lot less about how BAD WWI was. This is an easy way to get that sense.

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