Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Iron in the Soul - post VI

The book ends with the prinsoners discovering the same feeling as Mathieu that despite the speed of the French collapse this is war and underneath the different uniforms and language there is the potential for real hatred.

“They had counted on this war to make men of them, to give them their rights as heads of families, their share of glory as war veterans. It was to have been for them a solemn initiation, a means of freeing them from the crippling shackles of that Great war, that World war, which had stifled their youth with memories of splendour. This war of theirs was to have been greater and still more world-wide. By firing on the Jerries they were to have accomplished the ritual massacre of their fathers which marks the entry of each generation into life. But as things turned out they fired on nobody, indulged in no massacre. The whole thing had gone wrong.”


Bullet points between pages 318 - 349

* Brunet struggles to get through to people and the Germans are in total control of their fate even commanding time making everyone move an hour forward to Berlin time so the German empire can all be in synch

* Visitors are allowed to enter the barracks and one of the men is a veteran of the first world war and the tension in the air that he will condemn them evaporates after he tells them it was not their fault and refers to them as “poor lads”

* One officer escapes and in his rage at the other prisoners, who threaten to turn him in if they discover where he is hiding, Brunet boasts that he is also going to try to escape and dares them to also grass on him

* He obviously doesn’t because the scene shifts with them all in rail carriages being moved to Nancy and all the time Brunet either tempts others with the idea of jumping off or considers it himself then they hear from a bystander they are going to Germany

* The prisoners start to relax after the points change gives them the impression that they are going deeper into France and not towards Germany but they ask some Germans on the embankment where they are heading and are told that they are indeed going to Germany

* That leads to the rest of the men starting to panic and the printer that Brunet fears will try to escape jumps out of the train and is shot at by the Germans as he tries to get back into the train

* For the first time they realise the hatred that is directed towards them and the sense of war is made clear to them with Brunet benefiting from the anger but also a sense of reality and the futility of their position becoming clear

A full review will follow shortly…

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