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With the world events of last fall, everyone who lives or works with young people had to face that question. But a recent Annick young adult novel has made me question that assumption. It is a first-person narrative by an unnamed year-old Canadian soldier about his war experiences from the time he leaves Montreal to the battle of Amiens, after which he is sent home.
Against the idea of military discipline, we see Canadian soldiers looting an unoccupied French village, breaking into churches, stealing food, vandalizing, destroying artworks, and finally setting fire to the houses. Far from making men out of boys, war in this narrative takes decent humans and brutalizes them.
Even the science and strategy of warfare turns out to be a sham, when men die to recapture the very trench they lost earlier in the day. Harrison is a powerful writer.
He orchestrates the action so that just as we are becoming numb with horror over the deaths of young men, he modulates to a different key — the death of a cavalry horse — which is somehow more shocking and poignant.
When the noise and smell of battle overwhelm us, Harrison creates an oasis of calm, even lyricism. In one of these intervals, the soldiers are sent away from the front for a rest in a French village. They discover a stream and go swimming. We were men in uniform; clumsy, bundled, heavy uniforms. It is amazing now to see that we have slim, hard, graceful bodies.
Our faces are tanned and weather-beaten and that aged look which the trench gives us still lingers a bit, but our bodies are the bodies of boys. But to read it as autobiography is to miss some of its complexity. The final act of the novel consists of the preparation for Amiens and the battle itself.
But when our hero survives and is sent wounded to Britain he encounters a hospital orderly who says of the Llandovery Castle: Our officers oughta be shot for that. The problem here is that the orderly was wrong.
The sinking of the Llandovery Castle, as investigated after in a war crimes trial, was indeed a German military atrocity. The ship was not carrying war supplies or military personnel in active service, but only doctors, nurses, and the wounded. Is it plausible that such a rumour, as passed on by the orderly, was circulating?
Is it plausible that our hero would have believed it?
Thus although the message of this novel is that war is meaningless, disgusting, and soul-destroying, using young men as pawns of a stupid corrupt system, we are not even allowed the comfort of consistent cynicism. There is no way to read this book and emerge less than uneasy.
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Name: Pete Fowler Email: at ntlworld' Years_at_school: 62 Date: 29 Apr Time: Comments. Yesterday's Guardian carried an obituary notice for Fred Bilson, one of the English Department's star cast in the middle and late s. "In the Trenches" on the Horror of War The short story In the Trenches by the Canadian writer Charles Yale Harrison is a realistic and horrifying portrayal of war.
As such, it is an antiwar statement. OUTRAGE: NAFTA "renewal" forces year copyright extensions on Canadians -- your government talked big, but capitulated to the White House tyrant -- they had no mandate whatsoever for this giveaway But this is a battle we the people can win -- no provincial government publicly supports the deal.
Charles Yale Harrison was born in in Philadelphia. He left school in grade four, and at the age of 16 began writing for the Montreal Star. Before long, he joined the Royal Montreal Regiment and fought as a machine-gunner in France and Belgium/5(4).
The point is, if you the science fiction writer postulate lots of technological advances in your novels, you must at least pay lip service to the sad fact that it will make a sizable segment of your society very angry.