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Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

Storm of Steel (1920)

by Ernst Jünger

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1,026358,298 (4.01)66
  1. 41
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Taken together, Jünger's memoir and Remarque's novel present a pair of radically different views concerning the German soldier's experience in World War I.
  2. 00
    Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (Anonymous user)

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English (27)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Danish (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (35)
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Wilmette Library Book Club, Pritzker military library presentation November 12th 2014
  orchard52 | Nov 27, 2014 |
Storm of Steel is the war journal of Ernst Junger, a nineteen-year-old volunteer in the German army at the beginning of World War I. Junger fought in the trenches of France and Flanders for over four years. Storm of Steel was published in 1920, and retains the raw emotion and frustration of the young stormtrooper, who suffered 14 wounds during his tours of duty. Junger's detached and often poetic description of the horrors of war make this a compelling read. He does not glorify war, and certainly does not hide the fact that he was often terrified. He even admits to running away at one point during the March 21, 1918 offensive. All of this enhances his credibility as a witness to the unspeakable horrors and privations of trench warfare. What strikes me as separating Junger's account from others I've read is his certainty as to the nobility of his role in this mess. No matter how bad the situation, Junger made sure he maintained a demeanor expected by his men and fellow soldiers. That attitude served him well through some treacherous times. ( )
1 vote ninefivepeak | Nov 16, 2014 |
Ernst Junger's Storm of Steel is an autobiographical reflection on his experience as a German infantry soldier in World War I. Written in 1920, when Junger was still just 25, the narrative is unadulterated by politics and anti-war sentiment that appears in other works written during the 1920s; instead, Junger's tale is simply the story of life as a solider on the Western Front. While I am a fan of All Quiet on the Western Front, one can't help but feel like that classic is but a watered-down version of Storm of Steel. Although at times a bit grusome--take this as a warning for the feint-of-heart--Storm of Steel is far superior in capturing the experiences of life in the trenches, dugouts, and craters. It includes discussions of the use of gas, the experience of living through artillery bombardments, the night-raids, medical care and life in the hospitals, and the duties and responsibilities of junior officers. Overall, it is a thoughtful and vivid portrait of the First World War on the ground. ( )
1 vote featherby | Sep 21, 2014 |
As I'm much more familiar with British and Canadian memoirs of the First World War, I was excited to begin Jünger's "Storm of Steel" if only to get a sense of the "other side" of the conflict that was not Remarque's more famous "All Quiet on the Western Front". After first reading, I am struck by the tone of Jünger's work. There is jovial, high-spirited air to what seems at times to be an excited retelling of the author's war experience. It was somewhat jarring in comparison to more prevailing sense of misery and terror normally associated with First World War. This one is worth re-reading. ( )
  musecure | Aug 31, 2014 |
An oddly jaunty memoir of the Western Front, characterised by what Jünger describes somewhere as his ‘strange mood of melancholy exultation’. I am surprised so many people have found his prose ‘clean’, ‘sparse’, ‘unemotional’ – I thought the opposite, that it was rather over-literary in many places; not overwritten exactly, but with touches of a grand Romantic sensibility that I haven't found in English or French writers of the First World War:

The white ball of a shrapnel shell melted far off, suffusing the grey December sky. The breath of battle blew across to us, and we shuddered. Did we sense that almost all of us – some sooner, some later – were to be consumed by it, on days when the dark grumbling yonder would crash over our heads like an incessant thunder?

In the heat of battle, where Barbusse and Genevoix feel a nauseated horror, Jünger instead feels ‘an almost visionary excitement’ – even ‘a twinge of arousal’. Where Sassoon and Manning lament the loss or corruption of their entire generation, Jünger merely comments with apparent approbation that ‘over four years, the fire smelted an ever-purer, ever-bolder warriorhood’.

It's all very slightly off-putting; and the tone is quite hard to judge, despite the newness of this translation from Michael Hofmann. He (Hofmann) spends a lot of time in his introduction denigrating his predecessor Basil Creighton's version of 1929; this is not a classy move, particularly when I wouldn't call his own translation especially fluent (though I'm sure there are fewer direct errors). There are many odd word choices – like ‘grunt’ for soldier, which to my ears is very American and anyway wasn't used before the 1960s; and repeatedly using ‘splinter’ to describe a huge piece of shrapnel that can pierce a man's chest gives, I think, the wrong impression. Most of all, there is a lot of that awkward juxtaposition between high and low register that is the hallmark of ‘translationese’:

A lark ascends; its trilling gets on my wick.

Hofmann knows his subject, though, and his introductory essay has some interesting comments that contextualise Storm of Steel (what an appropriately George-RR-Martinesque title that is!). He makes the intriguing and, I think, convincing suggestion that Jünger's book has a ‘natural epic form’, as opposed to comparable accounts in English which are ‘lyrical or dramatic’. There are indeed many moments here that you might fairly call Homeric, not least in their tone of gung-ho excitement – and considering this helped me clarify what it was I disliked about the book.

Because isn't it the case that the epic form, with its tendency to revel in the ‘glory’ of war, is in some sense fundamentally dishonest – and, more to the point, isn't that precisely one of the lessons that the First World War taught us? ( )
  Widsith | Jul 23, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ernst Jüngerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Claessens, PeterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hofmann, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindström, UrbanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maaren, Nelleke vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zampa, GiorgioContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zampaglione, GiorgioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142437905, Paperback)

A memoir of astonishing power, savagery, and ashen lyricism, Storm of Steel illuminates not only the horrors but also the fascination of total war, seen through the eyes of an ordinary German soldier. Young, tough, patriotic, but also disturbingly self-aware, Jünger exulted in the Great War, which he saw not just as a great national conflict but—more importantly—as a unique personal struggle. Leading raiding parties, defending trenches against murderous British incursions, simply enduring as shells tore his comrades apart, Jünger kept testing himself, braced for the death that will mark his failure.

Published shortly after the war’s end, Storm of Steel was a worldwide bestseller and can now be rediscovered through Michael Hofmann’s brilliant new translation.

First time in Penguin Classics
Acclaimed new translation based on a new authoritative text
Widely viewed as the best account ever written of fighting in World War I

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:15 -0400)

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'As though walking through a deep dream, I saw steel helmets approaching through the craters. They seemed to sprout from the fire-harrowed soil like some iron harvest'. "Storm of Steel" is one of the greatest works to emerge from the catastrophe of the First World War. A memoir of astonishing power, savagery and ashen lyricism, it illuminates like no other book the horrors but also the fascination of total war, presenting the conflict through the eyes of an ordinary German soldier. As an account of the terrors of the Western Front and of the sickening allure that made men keep fighting on for four long years, "Storm of Steel" has no equal.… (more)

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