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Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves
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Goodbye to All That (1929)

by Robert Graves

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Robert Graves decided to tell his autobiography when he was a mere 34 years old. After experiencing the horrors of World War I he must have felt he had lived a lifetime by the time he was in his 30s. His descriptions of early trench-warfare and as one example, the crude, ineffective gas masks are haunting. Despite it all, Graves was able to keep some decency about him. This is evident when he was unable to shoot a German soldier who was bathing. There was something about the man's nakedness that unnerved Graves. And yet, he had a job to do...
Authors usually don't take the time to describe their picture in a book. Robert Graves explains why his nose is large and crooked (broken twice & operated on once) and why one shoulder dips lower (courtesy of a lung wound). He makes modest statements about how the world sees him (like how he broke two front teeth when he was thirteen) as if to offer apologies for his face. Despite these descriptions the most obvious is that World War I was not easy on Robert Graves. One look at his 1929 photograph on the frontispiece of Good-Bye to All That and one can tell he was a broken man by the time the picture was taken. His haunted staring eyes speak volumes.
But, probably the biggest surprise about Graves's autobiography was the humor. I don't know if he meant to be funny but if not, he succeeded without trying. ( )
  SeriousGrace | May 18, 2017 |
read as a teenager
  biodiplomacy | May 1, 2017 |
Back cover wrongly categorizes as Fiction
  biodiplomacy | Apr 29, 2017 |
A large part of Robert von Ranke Graves' autobiography consists of his recollection of army life in the Great War.

There are a few chapters about the author's early life at Charterhouse school, and again about his post-war meetings with other poets and writers, but it is the forcefulness of Graves' war memories which burst through the text of the book and into the reader's consciousness.

Graves, who was a Captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, gives us his recollections shorn of any nostalgia or fond feeling. So we learn on pg. 54, for example, that "the average life expectancy of an infantry subaltern on the Western Front was, at some stages of the war, only about three months; by which time he had been either wounded or killed. The proportions worked out at about four wounded for every one killed."

He goes on: "Of these four, one got wounded seriously, and the remaining three more or less lightly. The three lightly wounded returned to the front after a few weeks or months of absence." And also "Since the war lasted for four and a half years, it is easy to see why most of the survivors, if not permanently disabled, got wounded several times".

We learn many more gruesome details, too, which only serve to reinforce the memory of a later generation, sung for us by Edwin Starr:

"War! Huh! What's it good for? (Absolutely nothing)"

Say it again. . . . ( )
  SunnyJim | Mar 30, 2017 |
I'm not sure why it took me so long to read this book (I've had it in my TBR for years), but it was an amazing read. I switched between this 1957 re-release and a 2014 version which restores a lot of the excisions made from the original 1929 edition, and it was fascinating to see the differences. The 1957 version is more cleaned-up and diplomatic, but it still conveys the horror of the trenches and Graves' anger at the way the war was conducted.

You need to be able to connect with the detached, satirical voice to get the full effect. If you want someone who emotes a lot, Graves is not for you. For me, it would have been no more effective (and probably less) if he had not reined in his emotions; when he lets them go, which is rarely more than a couple of sentences at a time, it's shattering.

Absolutely worth reading, and I'll probably reread it. ( )
  Sunita_p | Nov 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Goodbye to all what? Not just to the trenches of World War I, but to all his life in England up to 1929, the year when poet Robert Graves wrote this memoir of his early years. I read it as an accompaniment to Pat Barker’s Regeneration, on which I will be commenting in a few days.

The same characters and the same war appear in both books — Graves himself, Sigfried Sassoon, the trenches, the mutilated bodies. While Regeneration is a novel, Goodbye to All That is a firsthand account of the horrors. Graves tells us how, as a boy of 19, he casually made the decision to fight.

"I had just finished with Charterhouse and gone up to Harlech, when England declared war on Germany. A day or two later I decided to enlist. In the first place, though the papers predicted only a very short war – over by Christmas at the outside – I hoped that it might last long enough to delay my going to Oxford in October, which I dreaded. Nor did I work out the possibilities of getting actively engaged in the fighting, expecting garrison service at home, while the regular forces were away."

And so it goes! Four years later,

"…I was still mentally and nervously organized for war. Shells used to come bursting on my bed at midnight, even though Nancy shared it with me; strangers in daytime would assume the faces of friends who had been killed."

Although my edition had a brief Epilogue from 1957, in the memoir itself Graves captures the mood of England’s middle and intellectual classes during the years before and after The Great War. As a new officer, Graves learned of his responsibilities as gentleman:

"First of all – I had not only gone to an inefficient tailor, but also had a soldier-servant who neglected to polish my buttons and shine my belt and boots as he should have done. Never having owned a valet before, I did not know what to expect of him. Crawshaw finally summoned me to the Orderly Room. He would not send me to France, he said, until I had entirely overhauled my wardrobe and looked more like a soldier…."

Once in France, Graves found more serious responsibilities than the polish of his belt. His report of those years is almost unemotional. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself, there is no “poor me” to get between us and his account of his experiences. After the war Graves was disabled by shell shock. Nervous and twitching and unable to settle comfortably into a new life, he continued as a writer. I am glad he survived to tell this story and all the others he gave us during a long career.
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graves, Robertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fussell, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graves, Richard PercevalEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spencer, StanleyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Trevelyan, RaleighIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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As a proof of my readiness to accept autobiographical conventions, let me at once record my two earliest memories.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385093306, Paperback)

The quintessential memoir of the generation of Englishmen who suffered in World War I is among the bitterest autobiographies ever written. Robert Graves's stripped-to-the-bone prose seethes with contempt for his class, his country, his military superiors, and the civilians who mindlessly cheered the carnage from the safety of home. His portrait of the stupidity and petty cruelties endemic in England's elite schools is almost as scathing as his depiction of trench warfare. Nothing could equal Graves's bone-chilling litany of meaningless death, horrific encounters with gruesomely decaying corpses, and even more appalling confrontations with the callousness and arrogance of the military command. Yet this scarifying book is consistently enthralling. Graves is a superb storyteller, and there's clearly something liberating about burning all your bridges at 34 (his age when Good-Bye to All That was first published in 1929). He conveys that feeling of exhilaration to his readers in a pell-mell rush of words that remains supremely lucid. Better known as a poet, historical novelist, and critic, Graves in this one work seems more like an English Hemingway, paring his prose to the minimum and eschewing all editorializing because it would bring him down to the level of the phrase- and war-mongers he despises. --Wendy Smith

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Robert Graves's autobiography tells the story of his life at public school and as a young officer during the first world war.

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Legacy Library: Robert Graves

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141184590, 014104554X, 0241951410

 

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