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On War by Bernard Shaw
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On War (edition 2010)

by Bernard Shaw, Philip Pullman (Foreword)

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2412443,774 (3.86)4
Member:twitham
Title:On War
Authors:Bernard Shaw
Other authors:Philip Pullman (Foreword)
Info:Hesperus Press (2010), Paperback, 112 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:war, essays, pacificism, Fabian

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On War by Bernard Shaw

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» See also 4 mentions

This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Awfully slender yet, on the whole, persuasive volume, collecting various writings about war and its attendant injustices and horrors. Always eloquent, often scathing, and intermittently baffling (re: the benefits of soldiering and, of course, his nearly unqualified admiration for Hitler, Stalin, et al.). And it rekindled my interest in the plays, particularly the prefaces. ( )
  Jambyfool | Jul 14, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Shaw was a lively and engaging writer; Shaw was also a twit.

Both aspects of Shaw are on display in this book, which collects excerpts of Shaw's writing -- bits of plays, stories, letters to the editor and letters to friends -- dealing with war. It's a timely release, with the apparent aim of capitalizing on public cynicism over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by republishing Shaw's apparently prescient socialist pacifism. And this is how the jacket copy and Philip Pullman's foreword encourage us to view it.

But Hesperus Press and editor J.P. Wearing are to be commended for being truer to the real Bernard Shaw than to any purpose for which his writing might now be appropriated: they've published him warts and all. And the warts are obvious.

Philip Pullman's noxious introduction attempts to gloss them over. "He was wrong about some things," writes Pullman. "He was wrong about Stalin and the Soviet Union, though he had Hitler's number."

What number was that? Shaw does discuss Hitler in numeric terms: "What makes it so puzzling is that nine-tenths of what Mr Hitler says is true. Nine-tenths of what [English fascist] Sir Oswald Mosley says is true. Quite often nine-tenths of what our parliamentary favorites say to please us is emotional brag, bunk, and nonsense."

What is that tenth of Hitler that Shaw found obnoxious? His antisemitism. Fascism itself did not greatly disturb him. Here, we should, perhaps, cut him some slack: many of his contemporaries were similarly unperturbed, and even those who objected to fascism were happy with Stalin. But can we accept that a man whose views were so thoroughly blinkered could possibly tell us, as Pullman asserts, "the truth about war?"

If you approach this book as a source of "the truth about war," you are likely to be disappointed, and if not disappointed, deluded. But that shouldn't imply that the book is without value, for some of Shaw's ideas are worthy. And where Shaw falls under the spell of dictators and their competing ideologies, as did so many of his contemporaries, we can find a lesson regarding the susceptibility of intelligent minds to grand structures built on bad ideas. One thing this book serves to illustrate is that much of the destruction of the past century was wrought at the service not of self-defence, or of need, but of ideologies bought lock, stock and barrel at the local manifesto shop.
1 vote ajsomerset | Jun 12, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A slim , 100 page, Hesperus Press volume of short pieces and excerpts of G B S 's writing on the theme of war. Includes parts of public and private letters, sections of plays and essays and other aspects of Shaw's work, written between 1894 and 1949. Many of the pieces were controversal when written as shaw had no illusions about the futility and horrors of war and did not mince his words.
Probably best read in small sections , I read a few sections a day so although only a few pages it took me a few, worthwhile weeks to read.
Interesting and thought provoking. ( )
  wendyrey | Jun 3, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This Hesperus Press collection of articles, speeches, letters, and play excerpts gives Bernard Shaw’s opinions on war. Shaw adeptly highlights the absurdities of war. The writings display Shaw’s wit and irony as he expresses his views of the Boer War, both World Wars, the dropping of the atomic bomb, and other conflicts. Shaw foresaw the consequences of the harsh treaty terms imposed on Germany after World War I. The later rise of Hitler and Mussolini bore out Shaw’s predictions. The reader may be surprised to read some of Shaw’s views of the German dictator.

It is interesting to read Shaw’s views on war. The real value of the book, though, is that it forces you, the reader, to examine your own views of war. Whether or not you agree with Shaw’s opinions, reading his writings will prompt you to examine your beliefs about war. Reading this book prompts many questions for the reader. Why do we fight? Why is peace so difficult to maintain? What is the justification for war? What is war’s attraction? Have we learned anything from the history of war? Is peace a possibility? Reading this book can help you clarify your stand on war. ( )
1 vote mitchellray | May 29, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a fine collection of Shaw's war writings (from Hesperus Press). The pieces, generally excerpts (from plays, letters, pamphlets, whatever else), are arranged chronologically, covering half a century+ of material and wars. Philip Pullman's 3p forward and JP Wearing's longer introduction provide effective backstory and context.

The brightest spot of the collection is, of course, Shaw's writing. His command of logic and ability to cut through rhetoric and political posturing is, as you’d expect, well represented here, making an otherwise dreary text a ‘pleasure’ to read. To me – having previously only encountered his plays – the many narrative and essay excerpts make the collection worthwhile.

Recommended. ( )
  mark | May 27, 2010 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bernard Shawprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pullman, PhilipForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wearing, J. P.Editorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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