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Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger
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Storm of Steel (1920)

by Ernst Jünger

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940309,268 (3.98)55
Recently added bymusecure, jnoorder, proustitute, SigmundFraud, private library, 826NYC, Kewlu, narbgr01
Legacy LibrariesGeorge Smith Patton, Jr.
  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 (22)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  Danish (2)  Spanish (1)  All languages (30)
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I have often lamented the lack of German World War I perspectives. Erich Maria-Remarque aside, I usually read works by British and French scholars, memoirists, diarists, and novelists. Fortunately here is a fine memoir translated from the German by the esteemed Michael Hofmann. I like its very flat spare prose. Everything is simply allowed to stand for itself: bravery, death, corpses, blood, shrapnel, friendship, dreams. Plainly declarative, there is no unnecessary coloration, no prolixity, no subtext, little in the way of moral judgement.

After reading Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That about the efficiency of the German trenches, I found it fascinating to get a sense of how those fortifications were built and how they functioned. Niall Ferguson in The Pity of War goes on at some length about the greater efficiency of German soldiers than their opponents. Jünger has here provided at least one example: the Germans simply didn't have the resources--munitions, for example--that the Entente Powers had. They had to do more with less, and did so:

Hundreds of British soldiers were running forward through a flat communications trench, little troubled by the weak gunfire we were able to direct at them. The scene was indicative of the inequality of resources with which we had to fight. Had we essayed the same thing, our units would have been shot to pieces in a matter of minutes.
Author Ernst Jünger was nineteen, the proverbial ephebe, when he went to the front. He was at first an enlisted man in the infantry who after a brief convalescence was commissioned an ensign and given responsibility for a platoon. He was frequently on the frontlines during the early years, responsible for his short stretch of the line, his poor comrades dropping all around him like flies. I suppose the oddest moments are when the tone becomes madcap, devil may care, despite the storm of steel..

Jünger was wounded with varying degrees of severity fourteen times by his count, except for the last time he was afterward always sent back to the front. Such travails you would think might sour a man, yet the attitude he evinced toward the British, which his soldiers shared, was anything but ungentlemanly:

The [British] sargeant practically had both legs sheered off by hand-grenade splinters; even so, with stoical calm, he kept his pipe clenched between his teeth to the end. This incident, like all our other encounters with the Britishers, left us pleasantly impressed by their bravery and manliness.
In the Introduction to the book translator Michael Hofmann quotes Gide who wrote in his diary: "Ernst Jünger's book on the 1914 War, Storm of Steel, is without question the finest book on war that I know: utterly honest, truthful, in good faith." I would agree. It is the finest book on World War I from the German perspective that I know. It also represents an utterly obsolete means of statecraft. War's elimination will only happen by way of the collective will of human beings. Please sign the Charter for Compassion at http://charterforcompassion.org/. ( )
  William345 | Jun 11, 2014 |
Not for the faint-hearted: graphic descriptions of war fatalities. Well-written/translated memoir relating Great War experiences in detail. Author's revelations of insight and of emotional trauma are relatively rare. Translator explains how he tried to maintain idiomatic fidelity. Good resource for those engaged in research. ( )
  christineplouvier | Apr 20, 2014 |
best memoir from World War 1. compare to the weepy, whiny British war poets or All Quiet on the Western Front. this is a much more profound, honest and disturbing work. ( )
  clarkland | Mar 26, 2014 |
This was mentioned as a source in Dan Carlin's work Blueprint for Armageddon as being a historical title too gruesome for childhood education. This statement seems justified.

The journal accounts tell of a people with a very different mindset from out own, and went against some of my preconceived notions about the thinking of the time. Why a different mindset? The soldiers he describes in this book seem to be utterly fearless and self-sacrificial. A bit romanticized...but I don't think he's invented this because he does take pauses throughout to describe very unheroic behaviors on his part and others.

Hmm. It's worth a read. Definitely. ( )
  mortensengarth | Feb 16, 2014 |
Ernst Jünger's account of his years fighting as a German soldier on the Western Front during World War One is one of the most graphic I have ever read in terms of descriptions of injuries and violence. That said, much of a soldier's life is routine and boring, and Jünger covers this aspect too.

I was surprised by Jünger's matter-of-factness. Although the book is all written in the first person it all feels at one remove. Jünger is a consummate professional, accepting everything that comes his way. Even when learning that his brother lies injured nearby he acknowledges some distress but, having done what he can, returns to the fray with barely a pause.

Jünger's sense of detachment meant the narrative was less involving, despite the visceral nature of much of what Jünger describes, and as such it is a far less successful memoir than, say, "Goodbye to All That" by Robert Graves in which I felt I got to know and understand the person as well as the soldier. That said, anyone seeking to gain an insight into the experience of a front line soldier during World War One will do well to find a better account. ( )
  nigeyb | Jan 30, 2014 |
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Ernst Jüngerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hofmann, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The train stopped at Bazancourt, a small town in Champagne, and we got out.
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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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