ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Anthology of War by Mordecai Richler

Updated on January 27, 2014

Writers on World War II - war anthology - review

The book I'm holding in my hand is not new. It's a library copy, covered in plastic for durability but still battered and falling apart (the first 20-30 pages are not attached to the spine in any way and keep sneaking out of my hand - a quick grab usually saves them from landing on the floor). I don't mind - I like books with history. If history happens to be the book's subject, too (as is the case with 'Writers on World War II') my bibliophile's soul is twice caressed - somehow it all seems to fit as it should.

Yet, no amount of visual or sensual perfection will save the book from a venomous rant if its contents prove to be deficient. Does this apply to Mordecai Richler's anthology? Read on to find out.

Photo source

soldier statue public domain
soldier statue public domain

War anthology by the greatest authors of our times

Introduction - short and sweet

With some books, the title says it all. What could a book named 'Writers on World War II' be about? Certainly we're not talking mating rituals of European ladybirds here.

Jokes aside, let me give you a short description - 'Writers on World War II' is a brick-like (more than 700 pages) anthology compiled of short stories and excerpts, chronologically arranged and describing all war theatres. It includes big names such as Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Simone de Beauvoir, Gunther Grass, but also some fairly unknown authors, of grander or lesser skill. Most contributions are quite compact, a few pages at most, so what you get is quite an impressive spectrum of views, genres, national sympathies etc. etc. Diaries and letters are peppered with poetry, seasoned with newspaper reports and served in general-bookishness quality sauce.

Overall, quite edible.

Photo source

old books public domain
old books public domain

What goes into Mordecai Richler's war anthology

Selection

I tend to have mixed feelings towards anthologies'... ehm,authors? Editors? Put-togethers? See, I can't quite see how the act of choosing texts and adding a few words of introduction to your selection justifies putting your name on the cover (and usually, picture and biography overleaf, too). As in - it's cheating, goddamnit! Poor writers have to sweat and exercise their brains and someone else gets all the fame, simply for saying 'Ok, print this'.

Well, I do realise that my judgement here is a bit harsh and I'm quite convinced that if any anthology author ever bothers to try and change my mind, he or she won't find it much of a challenge. All because of the simple fact - fair or not, I like anthologies very much.

In this particular case, I believe Mordecai Richler deserves to be both praised and chastised. Let's start with the bad news, shall we?

I have this tiny theory claiming that all literate people in the world can be divided into two groups: those who read introductions and those who don't. Don't laugh, ask around and you may notice the pattern yourself. I DO read introductions. They often prove to be a goldmine of information and little stories, and once or twice I've read an introduction better than the actual text it was accompanying. Let me just say - Richler's preface does not belong to this group. His introduction is not particularly bad, it simply fails to be remarkable in any way. Now, when it comes to the mini-prefaces to each text in the book... An editorial crime. Some authors show up again and again in the anthology (which is fine, as long as they contribute something worthwhile each time - and here they do). Let me ask you a question - how many times can you write a five-sentence biography of the same person, using different vocabulary but the same information each time? It may be valuable as a literary exercise, but from the reader's point of view it's just an irritating waste of space.

Time for praises.

The selection itself is quite impressive. It never lets you get bored. You travel in space and time, see the world in all kinds of perspective and the journey leaves you full of reflections and impressions. If you don't like one of the pieces, you can rest assured that the next in line will be quite different.

'Writers on World War II' is so full of various styles and genres that whatever your preference, you're bound to find something to your liking.

Overall, it's a delicious mixture.

Photo source

More books by Mordecai Richler

Anthologies and you

Do you like anthologies?

See results
war memorial public domain
war memorial public domain

Importance of war anthologies

An international account of war

The most impressive bit about Mordecai Richler's anthology is its internationality. One conflict, many various points of view. Richler gathers them all (or, to be more precise, enough to give the book its cosmopolitan, impartial feel). War writers speak with many voices - those of soldiers, statesmen, victims, witnesses, bystanders and more. It shows with amazing clarity what a huge, all-encompassing conflict the World War II really was. It touched everyone and it changed most of whom it touched.

Some stories are tragic, some scary. Some are banal, some - very powerful. Just as you would expect from an anthology of war writings.

I'm only wondering whether I'm alone in noticing one, ever present, ever visible motif in those 700 pages. I wonder if I'm the only person who, after reading 'Writers on World War II' wants to ask - is there a thing more ridiculous, more tragically stupid and unfair than dying for somebody else's big ideas?

Hope I'm not.

Photo source

What do you think of 'Writers on World War II'? - Do you like war anthologies? Do you think a war anthology is a good idea? Do let me know!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)