IF THIS BE GLORY by Hasso G. Stachow


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The fictionalized true-life reminiscences of a signaler in the German Army, 1942-1945: Herbert Quast, born in 1924, ""told me his story in the course of twelve long interviews,"" says Stachow, and that story drones along here with grueling authenticity, right-minded sentiments, but little novelistic depth or shape. ""Little Herbert"" Quast grows up in the Thirties with no doubts about the Fuehrer's wisdom or C, ermany's need to reclaim greatness. So, idealistically, 18-year-old Quast joins up, disdains officer training, is repelled by the careerism of other soldiers, and is happy to train as a ""common signaler."" His first assignment, maintaining radio communications from a wretched dugout near the Germany/Russia no-man's land, brings him a first close look at a Russian corpse: ""Uniforms apart, he could see no fundamental difference between them."" Then comes duty with an Assault Battalion in Estonia: dreary exercises, drunken comrades, sporadic battles and bombings. (""This bunch of torpid, dull-eyed men--could they really be his battalion?"") And then, after weeks of village skirmishes and trenches, a near-fatal wounding--followed by convalescence and a willful re-joining of the Battalion, just in time to be caught up in the devastating last days of the war: Quast, now promoted, finally ends up by disbanding his platoon. Stachow, himself a veteran of the Eastern Front, certainly conveys the day-to-day horrors and banality of life-sized warfare here--with cable/radio detail, cowardly behavior, officer sliminess, and general chaos. Herbert's interior journey, however--from idealism to bitterness--is predictable and shallow, announced rather than dramatized. (Plus: the usual, hollow, good-German reactions to death-camp rumors: ""It simply couldn't be true."") And the narrative, flatly episodic in any case, is further fragmented with excerpts from the Stachow/Quast interviews (""You think killing can be justified?"")--while translator Brownjohn's US colloquialisms (""Man, are you a cool customer!"") damage this novel's only strength: its verisimilitude. Undistinguished as war-fiction, then, but of some interest for the documentary values.

Pub Date: March 12th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday