on May 21, 2007
The horrors of the First World War are relived in Harrison's controversial classic, "Generals die in bed" which questions the notion of war as a noble and glorious endeavour. The story is of six Canadian men and their experience as being shock troops against Germans. Though the unnamed protagonist does kill several Germans over the course of the book, from the onset, he and his squad learn who their "real enemies are - the lice, some of [their] officers, and Death." (Chapter "Out on rest" p.23, 2007 edition)
The protagonist witnesses several events which undermine the nobility of war and progressively desensitizes him to violence. During one of his leaves from the front, he is repulsed by the humorous and light-hearted portrayal of the war in London by middle class folk, non-combatant military personnel and even religious figures. He witnesses the looting of a village and the ensuing chaos. Finally, he and his squad are lied to in order to increase their aggressiveness in what seems like the final assault.
Occasionally lacking some detail, the almost "point-form" writing style does require an active reader and an active imagination. Still though, Harrison's poignant novel transcends the realities of the First World War and undermines the military as an institution in general.
on August 18, 2014
It is a wonderful book. Tough classed as fiction, you can read between the lines an auto-biographical fill-in, based on Harrison's experiences. It illustrates in graphic detail, the horrible mistake - Big Mistake number one - otherwise known as World War one, was to the deluded masses who believed the lies about German barbarity. The same thing holds true for Big Mistake Number two; Germany portrayed as the evil monster and sole cause of that war too - not. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to read a more accurate account of life in the trenches. The title alone gives a hint of what's coming.