Reading and learning are two of my passions and it is my pleasure to share these books with you.I have read them all and have found them to be both insightful and engaging. I encourage your feedback and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Maj Chris Buckham
Saturday, 2 May 2015
‘Neath Verdun - Maurice Genevoix
Title: ‘Neath Verdun
Author: Maurice Genevoix
This book is a reproduction of the author’s diary running
for the first few weeks of World War 1(25 August – 4 October, 1914). It is not a book about the Battle of
Verdun, but more the experiences, observations and thoughts of Lt Genevoix as
he and his fellow soldiers grapple with the stresses and challenges of war for
the first time in the region of the Meuse Valley.
What makes this book quite unique is the degree of detail
which the author recalls and remarks upon. Written in the immediacy of the
moment, he is able to convey a sense of the frustration, fear, confusion, doubt,
hope and comradeship that pervade these early days. One is struck by his horror
at seeing soldiers with horrific wounds desperately seeking medical aid, the
crushing exhaustion of endless marches in rain and mud, the joy at the prospect
of a warm meal, the struggles with preventing melancholy at not receiving mail
and the sad empathy at the suffering of wounded horses that he comes across.
He and his soldiers are not hardened to war as of yet; they
are still learning and struggling with the new reality of their existence and
what it entails. The author is able to convey his concerns and fears of his own
leadership and the terror of the prospect of combat and death (or even worse
wounding). In battle, especially on the front line, ones focus is drawn into a
very narrow field, bracketed by the soldiers within one’s immediate
responsibility. This isolation and the necessity to make decisions under the
stress of being exposed to maiming, death, exhaustion and fear is eloquently
conveyed in Genevoix’s comments.
He is a sensitive, observant and thoughtful man, capable of seeing and
capturing the essence of his surroundings and experiences through the written
word in a way that many diarists fail to achieve. His work is short, but it
leaves one feeling profoundly introspective and humbled at the massive
undertaking that Genevoix and his soldiers were embarking upon. This is made
all the more poignant with the reader’s benefit of hindsight and the knowledge
of what the war would degenerate into. This book is well worth reading for
junior and mid-grade officers as well as historians or those curious to get a
bit of an appreciation of early field life of a combat command soldier.