Saturday, July 24, 2004

Illness as metaphor

"Our men could only draw on such funds of nerve and physique, knowledge and skill, as we had put into them... Like the syphilitic children of some jolly Victorian rake, they could only bring to this harsh examination such health and sanity as all the pleasant vices of Victorian and Edwardian England had left them." -- C.E. Montague, Disenchantment.

He's talking about the English soldiers of World War I. Presumably someone has already written the thesis on venereal disease in post-war writing.

[Disenchantment, by C.E. Montague, Chatto and Windus, 1922. Bellelettristic analysis of the psychological impact of the then Great War, by a leading light of the then Manchester Guardian. Overturns several ideas I hadn't even realised were received by then, in a style heavy on everything -- untranslated chunks of Latin, wide literary reference, long flights of rhetoric -- that journalists are no longer allowed to do.  Given that he appears to have spent 1916-1918 as a censor, the propaganda chapter is perhaps particularly interesting.]

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