Vivid, detached, often sardonic recollections from an altogether engaging radical who, though a peace-loving socialist, focuses on the military service that consumed most of his young manhood. An independent film producer whose credits include The Bell Jar and Saturday Night Fever, Felsen says not a word about his post-1945 life and career. Instead, he offers a self-contained first-person account of the odyssey that took him from the mean streets of Brooklyn and a Catskills farm to the Univ. of Iowa's work/study program and beyond. As a campus activist, the author was constantly in trouble for championing progressive and/or unpopular causes. Dropping out of school in 1937 (at age 25), he fought with the international brigade against Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War. Wounded while in combat near Madrid, Felsen recovered to become an ambulance driver. After earning a degree upon his return to the States, the author found himself barred from mainstream employment as a "premature anti-Fascist.' When the US was drawn into WW II, however, Col. William Donovan found a use for the newlywed Felsen's talents, and he helped train OSS recruits. Posted overseas, he was captured during a behind-the-lines sabotage mission in North Africa. Escaping from a POW camp deep in Nazi Germany, the author worked briefly with occupation troops as an interpreter before being mustered home again. While obviously relished the camaraderie of campaigning and even incarceration, he holds no brief for war. His unsentimental, understated opposition is typically conveyed, though, via Brechtian asides, e.g., a quickly stated speculation as to why draft boards insist on having perfect young physical specimens to be maimed, mutilated, and/or killed in battle. Nor, paradoxically perhaps, does the author seem to have much use for those who refused to fight for their professed beliefs. A case in point is classmate Merle Miller, who decided his pen would be mightier than a sword in the cause of Spanish Republicans. A riveting narrative, informed by a genuinely humane and liberal spirit. The text includes photographs (not seen).
Read full book review >