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WW2. Guy Sajer and his book "The forgotten soldier"

Updated on September 16, 2012
German troops on march
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I have read many books devoted to the WWII. I still remember some of them, but others were totally forgotten because of different reasons. Mostly they were focused on some political or purely historical aspects, or they were too much autobiographical (it was also a weak point). But Guy Sajer's “THE FORGOTTEN SOLDIER” is absolutely different from any other book devoted to that period in history.

Since its first edition this book caused numerous disputes. Some journalists and history researches doubt if the book was a real documentary. There is an opinion that this book was a novel written by an author and does not reflect events with 100% correctness. However a value of this book for an ordinary reader is huge. No matter fiction it is, or a purely documentary book, it describes the worst sides of war which are usually hidden by trumpery of nice words and patriotic slogans.

This novel describes a life of a soldier Guy Sajer who was enlisted in the German army in 1942 and finished the war in 1945 on a territory occupied by troops of Coalition. His war can be described in several phrases: patriotic marching, belief in victory and Hitler, successful attacks, retreat and finally the end of war in a ruined Germany. What is more important is not what he did, but what he felt. The book describes his story in simple words. This simplicity of narration and some out-of-body view on events makes the reader to believe in every sentence. The reader can feel the hero and understand his thoughts.

Guy Sajer made his way through the whole Europe. At the same time his soul and his hart lived a life from a blind juvenile admiration of the army to the wise wisdom peculiar to an old man who understands life in all its sides.

The book has no evident political idea. May be some episodes lack certain details but feelings of the main character are evident. When you read it you understand well that the war is a bad thing. Nothings worth it.

It is interesting that there were many books devoted to the WWII in the USSR, but this book was totally unknown to Soviet and later Russian readers. Only recently it appeared on the bookshelves and became well known. I was thinking about this phenomenon but still did not come to a certain conclusion why it was not printed in the USSR. Of course the book was written by our ex-enemy, so may be the soviet censorship was afraid to show German soldiers from an other side? Not all of them were animal who killed Russian soldiers. Just like Russians German soldiers often were just in a situation: “if I will not kill you, you will kill me”.

Guy Sajer was not a monster who wanted to kill others. But I think he was a blinkered man. Understanding of war came later to him.

An other reason why it was not published in the USSR may be in its happy end. The main character was not punished in any way for things he did. He was lucky to escape military court and prison at the end of the war. Probably it seemed to be not very exemplarily from the point of view of Soviet propaganda. But what was not good for them is definitely good for a reader because we all want to see a happy end.

Hope you like this book as much as I liked, or at least get a full size picture of events which happened many and many years ago.


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    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      this book should be pretty old. The World in Which I Disappeared was published in 1962..

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 

      6 years ago from American Southwest

      (Took me a while to find the book.) It was "Last Door to Aiya" short stories collected and translated by Mirra Ginsburg, so the titles may not sound familiar. My favorites were "The World in Which I Disappeared" by A. Dneprov, and "My Colleague" and "Vanya" by V. Grigoriev.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Can you tell me names of novels in the book you have, please. Just curious:)

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 

      6 years ago from American Southwest

      And I missed this article too! I think it is interesting what you say about reasons it was not published. I have a book of Soviet science fiction which I particularly like because all the endings are happy. It was a nice change from the doom-and-gloom of American science fiction.

      In principle I think it is better to have free speech, but I admit if I were a dictator, I would be strongly tempted to decree that all books should have happy endings.

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 

      6 years ago from American Southwest

      And I missed this article too! I think it is interesting what you say about reasons it was not published. I have a book of Soviet science fiction which I particularly like because all the endings are happy. It was a nice change from the doom-and-gloom of American science fiction.

      In principle I think it is better to have free speech, but I admit if I were a dictator, I would be strongly tempted to decree that all books should have happy endings.

    • profile image

      Pat 

      6 years ago

      Plenty of info about Guy on the net. Sajer is not his name now. He lives in a small French town though I can't remember his job. He's never made a big thing about his war experiences other than writing the book and is bemused by the idea its just a story. It is, errors and all, how he remembers it. Another one worth reading is Through Hell for Hitler though it was written long after the war as is heavily left wing biased.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      to joanveronica Thank you for a comment! I believe there are lots of books like this which still need attantion. We just do not know about them, yet.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      JKenny: I am glad you also had these feeling reading this book. How do you know that Pavel is the same name as Pavlo? Have some friends in Russia? :-)

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      to handymanbill : Thank you for a comment! Nice to see you again reading my hubs:)

    • joanveronica profile image

      Joan Veronica Robertson 

      6 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

      Hi Pavlo, a very interesting article! I like the way you describe the main character, you seem to mantain a very objective focus on what you are describing. This is a very valuable attribute when writing about historical events! Voted Up, useful and interesting! Have a good day and be happy!

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 

      6 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Pavel, I remember reading this book some years ago and found it utterly compelling, and a great insight into the mind of an ordinary German soldier. For me, this book and the film 'Stalingrad' offer the most realistic portrayal of German soldiers in World War 2. Thanks for writing this. Voted up etc.

    • handymanbill profile image

      Bill 

      6 years ago from western pennsylvania

      Great Hub. You do write some fascinating things. I am going to have to try and find that book to read. Thanks and shared

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Thank you for a comment! Hope you enjoy this book as I enjoyed it!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Sounds like a great book. Your description definitely makes me want to buy it. I had never heard of him or the book before. I will check it out. Good Hub. Sharing,

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I like your comment. Thank you. I wrote a hub devoted to Leningrad as well. Soviet country had really the hard time in that war. Stalin and his regime was one huge difficulty, and the war- the other one. You mentioned absolutely correctly that people in the USSR suffered a lot.

    • profile image

      ahorseback 

      6 years ago

      Much of all history is unknown even here in America ! I recently watched a documentary of Russian and German soldier's in mass graves . Where after the battle of Lenningrad many atrocities were committed . Such a sad history No ? There is no "Fair " in war is there ? You write some awesome hubs ! I was about thirty before I even heard of the battles of Leningrad and Stalingrad ! My Father served in the invasion of Normandy all the way to the Rhine ! The Russians soldiers AND civilians truely suffered . Our hearts must go out to the true valour of the Russian soldier .

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I gave my vision of the story, based on my feelings and understanding. May be your vision of events will be different. Still I do believe you like it. Thank you for a comment!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I am interested in stories of World War II (my father, father-in-law and stepfather all served as American Army soldiers). Although I've read books about various German officers of the Third Reich, I've never read a firsthand account written by a German soldier. As you describe it, this one seems interesting.

      I like the way you write that Sajer was "blinkered." So many people are blind to the real nature of war until they truly recognize its evils. Although this German soldier came late to such knowledge, at least his opinion of war did change.

      Thanks for sharing about this book, Pavlo. I will look for it. I also look forward to reading more of your hubs as I find time to do so. (Don't worry about your English grammar. I think your writing is very good considering English is not your native language. Most Americans are not even bilingual. For example, there's no way I could write a sentence in Russian!)

      Regards,

      Jaye

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      yes, the book is interesting. at least I could not stop till finished and later read it again. it was just different from what I read before. thank you for a comment!

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Sounds like an interesting book, whether it's factual or not. I like your phrase "If I will not kill you, you will kill me". That seems to be the last resort of countries going to war-- if we don't kill them first, they will kill our people. Naturally, if every country feels that way, war will be with us forever-- or until we wipe ourselves off the planet. Voted up and interesting.

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