by Irwin Shaw ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1948
If not directed at a popular level, this is the outstanding novel to have come out of the war, in the universality of its framework, its thoughtfulness, and its writing which is swift, believable and often brilliant. Shaw, whose name has carried to an intellectual audience largely on his short stories (in particular, the memorable Act of Faith) has hit on all the composites that make up a war world and its armies; the hard ugliness, the decadence of pfc's and Generals, the cruelty, the atrocities, the perversities, the beauty, the sentiment, the intelligence, the cold logic, the mathematical illogic, the fear, the bitterness, the sexual laxity, and even the hope. Shaw surrounds his novel with broad, valid areas of thought, and then works from within, showing a delicacy in handling shadows and half tones and hardly perceptible character gradations. The structure of the book resembles The Fountainhead as it deals with distinct, removed persons who eventually meet up with one another. The decadent symbolism is reminiscent of Remarque's Arch of Triumph; the aimlessness, the bitter sophistication, the emptiness of world philosophies, the inability to grasp the center of things. Working in large blocks, Shaw covers territory both affected and unaffected by war; America (New York, the West Coast, Vermont), Austria, Germany, France, Africa, England, Belgium. There is New Yorker Michael, a product of Hollywood and the theatre and soft beds and the cocktail hour, who after a series of easy berths in the army, finally finds himself at the front and turns into something of a hero. There is the Jew, Noah, and his wife, Hope, both American, who symbolize a kind of unspoiled Adam and Eve before the fall. There is Christian, a name as paradoxical as the title of the book, who represents the German soldier- coldly intelligent, completely heartless, impregnable even in death. There is Captain Green, effeminate and efficient, who carries within him the kind of humanity and tolerance that Shaw sees as the only hope for a disintegrating world. He is one of the ""young lions"". And there are all the men and women in between who provide both links and separate entities. A modern treatise on war, this is deserving of considerable critical attention.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1948
Page Count: -
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1948
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