125 Things Meme: Day 10

Today's theme is books about the Second World War. Because it's 106 degrees here and books about cold European winters are exactly what we need... or something.

Actually, I only have 4 books on this list specifically about said war, but the fifth is directly related, so I include it because I've a seperate list for books about other wars. God.

46. The Forgotten Solider by Guy Sajer:

This book recountsthe horror of World War II on the eastern front, as seen through the eyes of a teenaged German soldier. At first an exciting adventure, young Guy Sajer’s war becomes, as the German invasion falters in the icy vastness of the Ukraine, a simple, desperate struggle for survival against cold, hunger, and above all the terrifying Soviet artillery. As a member of the elite Gross Deutschland Division, he fought in all the great battles from Kursk to Kharkov.

His German footsoldier’s perspective makes The Forgotten Soldier a unique war memoir, the book that the Christian Science Monitor said "may well be the book about World War II which has been so long awaited."

Why you should read it: There is a story to this one. As in, in asking my mom about books I should add to this meme, she asked my father, who dropped this book off with me the last time he was here, and I read the last 300 pages of it this afternoon, sitting in Panera while waiting for the first of the two showings they did on our house to be over with. This is a book I knew from the first page I would like. And the last line? Well, tears threatened to fall. I'm a collector, of sorts, of last lines of books, and this is one of the best I've ever seen. But, needless to say, this is a biography about a half-French, half-German infantryman in the German army during WWII - who's not yet 16 when he's drafted and barely 18 when the war ends. It's a desperate tale, not of ideology, but of the struggle to stay alive, the meaninglessness of war, and of the heroics of the defeated.

“A day came when I should have died, and after that nothing seemed very important. So I have stayed as I am, without regret, separated from the normal human condition.” 

"Only the victors have stories to tell. We, the vanquished, were all cowards and weaklings by then, whose memories, fears, and enthusiasms should not be remembered."

47. The Long Voyage by Jorge Semprun:
Gasping for breath in a cattle truck occupied by 119 other men, a young Spaniard captured fighting with the French Resistance counts off the days and nights as the train rolls slowly but inexorably toward Buchenwald. On the five seemingly endless days of the journey, he has conversations that send him into daydreams about his childhood or set him fighting Resistance battles over again. He describes the temporary holding prison where the names of distant concentration camps are spoken of in whispers - their individual horrors discussed, rated, contemplated. In chilling detail, the trip with those 119 men - some fearful, some defiant - is evoked, along with his own confusion, anger, and bitter resignation. When at last the fantastic, Wagnerian gates to Buchenwald come into sight, the young Spaniard is left alone to face the camp.

Why you should read it: This is another book dad brought down for me to read, not realizing that I'd read this one before. But I don't mind. After I finished The Forgotten Solider, I spent the rest of my temporary exile reading the the first 150 pages of this. Because it's that good of a book. This is a memoir about a exiled Spaniard who fought in the French Resistance and is sent to a Geerman concentration camp, but it's more than that. It's... well, it's exceedingly well done. Stream of conciousness and past mixing with the future and I can't for the life of me find any quotes from it on the internet, which I think odd because it's a very quotable book... and, well, it's very well done.

"I'm in prison because I'm a free man, because I found it necessary to excersise my freedom, because I acccepted this necessity."

"For death is personal only for the person itself, that is to the extent it is accepted, embraced, it can be personal for him, and for only."

48. Catch-22 by Jospeh Heller:

Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

Why you should read it: Because, if The Forgotten Soldier and The Long Voyage have somehow managed to suck the life out of you with the stark, depressing reality of war, this one will revive you with it's humour. It's kind of like The Hitchhicker's Guide to the Galaxy, in that somehow it's able to make fun of things that shouldn't be funny. It's a different take on the sheer, overwhelming stupidity of war - and, if that wasn't enough, it helped to gift us with one of my favourite SGA stories, "Catch-19," which really isn't a reason to read it so much as a if you liked one, you'll probably like the other sort of deal.

“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt."

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.” 

“Anything worth dying for is certainly worth living for.”

49. Slaughterhouse-Five: Or, the Children's Crusade by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.:

Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse-Five introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden.

Don't let the ease of reading fool you--Vonnegut's isn't a conventional, or simple, novel. He writes, "There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick, and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters..." Slaughterhouse-Five (taken from the name of the building where the POWs were held) is not only Vonnegut's most powerful book, it is as important as any written since 1945. Like Catch- 22, it fashions the author's experiences in the Second World War into an eloquent and deeply funny plea against butchery in the service of authority. Slaughterhouse-Five boasts the same imagination, humanity, and gleeful appreciation of the absurd found in Vonnegut's other works, but the book's basis in rock-hard, tragic fact gives it a unique poignancy--and humor.

Why you should read it: You have SyFy, you have absurdism, you have humour, and you have this tragically beautiful tale of life and war and the devistating things one does to the other. It's one of those things you have to experience to understand, because the simple act of telling you how great it is doesn't work. Funny? you say. A funny book about world war two? With aliens? It's not at all like the inevitable Star Trek WWII episodes - as in to say, the aliens make the Nazis do it (by which I do not mean sex, though I'm sure there's a fic out there somewhere where that's the case). It's just... well. It's like Cat's Cradle. It's beautiful in a way that shouldn't be. Meaninfullness in Meaninglessness.

“Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”

“Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops.” 

“That's one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.” 

"The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever."

50. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels:

"A spectre is haunting Europe," Karl Marx and Frederic Engels wrote in 1848, "the spectre of Communism." Marx and Engels's critique of capitalism and its deleterious effect on all aspects of life, from the increasing rift between the classes to the destruction of the nuclear family, has proven remarkably prescient. Their spectre, manifested in the Manifesto's vivid prose, continues to haunt the capitalist world, lingering as a ghostly apparition even after the collapse of those governments which claimed to be enacting its principles.

Why you should read it: You cannot understand the world we live in without understanding communism. The 20th century does not make sense if you do not grasp the concept that some people want the world to be run one way - through communism, socalism, and all the gradients therof - and others want the world to go another - ie, captitolism. And, at it's heart, The Communist Manifesto makes sense. It makes so much sense it hurts. After all, equality for all? Isn't that the dream the world's been working towards (if you're to believe Star Trek)? It's at it's end, when it starts to go rampant about how the only way to win equality is with the sword, not peace and legistlation and whatnot that you really see how any nation founded on this idea probably won't be that stable, or that great of a place to live... But you've got to read it. No matter what your feelings are, you should.

“The proletarians have nothing to loose but their chains. They have a world to win.” 

[And now you're probably wondering, okay, it's weird enough she has a whole day's worth of books about WWII, but why hasn't she included The Diary of Anne Frank? Why has she chosen to include The Communist Manifesto, which really doesn't fit the theme at all? And, to be frank, it's because, for all The Diary of Anne Frank is a decent book, and a stunning, tear-jerking example of the realities of WWII, it is not actually that good in my opinion. Not bad, but too much of it's success rides on the fact that it's written by a girl whose life was a tragic as her death, and not on the merits of the book itself. Feel free to disagree with me on this one, but that's just how I feel, ergo... it doesn't make the cut.]

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I've been meaning to read Slaughterhouse Five. And now I want to read Catch-22 as well :P
You mean you didn't want to reach Catch-22 before? It's like... it's absolutley amazing. Everyone (oviously) should read it.

Nothing to say about the other three depressing choices though? Though even I've got to admit, after the "WWII" binging I've done today, I'm feeling a little depressed myself.
Honestly? I never gave Catch-22 much thought, beyond that fic you linked me to. I haven't read all that many classic books.

I like learning about the wars on television, so there's a chance I could read and enjoy the depressing books. But you know how I am with depressing things :P I am twice as likely to love something that makes me laugh.
Oh. I hate classic books. With a passion. But I don't count Catch-22 as a classic. It's more of a... well, it's far to modern to be a classic.

I find war documentaries quite trying myself. At least, the ones where they do a whole bunch of interviews. I prefer reinactments and real footage and those really cool "interactive" maps that show things on a global scale. But then I've always been a "big picture" person.
I guess I view Catch-22 to be a classic because it feels like one of those books that everybody should/does recognize by title, even if they've never read it.

I like the ones on the History Channel, where they do a sort of "re-enactment movie" type thing, and then switch to the real life person talking about their experiences.
I'm big against the RL people. Seriously, every documentary I watch, it's that way. I think that's because there are only X many people left to ask about something, so if you watch more than one or two, you start getting the same people saying the same things over and over again.

Take Universe, which is this whole hyped-up Science documentary series on a lot of various things. I love science. I love their topics - but I've read all the books by all the people on the show, and have a more-than-basic understanding of some of the concepts already, so it starts to get repedative fast.

So in general I prefer history books. Or memoirs. After I finish rereading The Long Voyage, a book called War is next on my docket.
Okay, yeah - I could see where that would be a problem. I don't watch them that often, so I don't see the same people being interviewed repeatedly. My dad probably does, since he watches them so often - he most often complains of the History Channel showing the same show/episode repeatedly.

*nod* The people on the show are essentially repeating what they wrote in their books, and that *would* get tiring.

I think on a whole our tastes in books are different. I tend to go for light-hearted stuff, especially fictional comedy (or just plain fiction). I love the Discworld series, for example XD
Discworld is on my list of books I need to read. Along with almost every other thing in the world I've yet to read.

Yeah, it does sound like our tastes in books is different, more or less. But I tend to read a very, very broad range of things, so I'm sure there's bound to be some overlap somewhere.

(A quick glance through my pile of paperbacks-I've-yet-to-read includes: half-a-dozen SyFy books, a handful of books on a variety of wars, a bio of Churchill, a bio of Von Braun, and a books on the self-referential nature of the human conciousness.)