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Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography (1929)

by Robert Graves

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,720653,411 (4)199
Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. HTML:

Robert Graves relates his time in the trenches.

Robert Graves's writing is versatile and intense. Famous as a war poet, his prose works are on a stage of their own, especially this piece, which is an autobiographical account of Grave's school days and life as a soldier in the trenches in World War 1. Political as well as personal, the piece is important historically, as it offers a rare insight into the lives of ordinary soldiers in the most extraordinary, and often horrific, circumstances. A necessary and absorbing listen, which not without its moments of humour, is enlightening and unsettling and undoubtedly importantly necessary for everybody. (Recommended 14+ age).

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» See also 199 mentions

English (60)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
For Remembrance Day, I posted a Sensational Snippet on my blog:
https://anzlitlovers.com/2023/11/11/sensational-snippets-goodbye-to-all-that-192... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jan 9, 2024 |
Mostly WW I memories with a bit of boarding school history in the beginning. His description of homosexuality at boarding school was surprising to me given how Alan Turing was treated after WW II. ( )
  Castinet | Dec 11, 2022 |
Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves is a memoir about his formative years in England and his years at war. He had a somewhat privileged upbringing at various boarding schools, and the war interfered with his attending Oxford. Nevertheless, he served in WWI and provided many gruesome details of life in the trenches as he performed his duties. I was surprised at how little training soldiers received. However, I was not surprised at the loss of innocence due to the war and the need for people like Graves to leave his childhood behind and acknowledge the atrocities such as murder, rape, mutilation, and torture. By the way, Graves claims that the atrocities were equal on both sides.
Some of the book's messages that will remain with me are:

1. Respirators. Graves says, "the first respirator issued in France was a gauze-pad filled with chemically treated cotton waste, for tying across the mouth and nose. Reputedly it could not keep out the German gas…a week or two later came the 'smoke helmet,' a greasy gry-felt bag with a talc window to look through, but no mouthpiece, certainly ineffective against gas." (p. 95)

2. Two young miners disliked their sergeant and reported to their Adjutant: "'We've come to report, Sir, that we're very sorry, but we've shot our company sergeant-major.'
The Adjutant said, 'Good heavens, how did that happen?'
'It was an accident, Sir.'
'What do you mean, you damn fools? Did you mistake him for a spy?'
"No, Sir, we mistook him for our platoon sergeant.'"
They were both court-martialled and shot by a firing squad of their own company. (p.109)

3. Graves was treated with reserve since he had a German name and was suspected of being a spy. Incredible!

4. Local French peasants didn't care whether the soldiers were on the German or British side of the line. They had no use for foreign soldiers. Wow!

5. Self-medication with alcohol and drugs was common—probably a survival mechanism.

6. Prose and poetry were critical during wartime and afterward. ( )
1 vote LindaLoretz | Nov 15, 2022 |
There's not much to say about this book that hasn't already been said: it is an excellent account of the Great War, up there with [b:Journey to the End of the Night|12395|Journey to the End of the Night|Louis-Ferdinand Céline|https://d2arxad8u2l0g7.cloudfront.net/books/1462934409s/12395.jpg|1551463].

The entire fourth season of Black Adder seems to be based on observations made in this book: the boorish New Army recruits gradually replacing the mannered regimentals, the captains eating muck in the trenches while the colonel dines on filet mignon a few hundred yards away, the officer with a German consul for an uncle who just might be passing classified material to the enemy.

The book's weakness lay in its not clearly distinguishing between a poet's supra-logical thought processes and the supra-logical process of the common psychopath.
( )
  mkfs | Aug 13, 2022 |
I've probably been hearing about this book from early high school.....some 60 years ago but I've never read it. So I thought it about time that I amended my education and actually read it. My judgement, after reading, is that it is a reasonable autobiography but not much more than that. Yes he describes the horrors of the war fairly graphically.....and, I assume, accurately. (Though I can't get the Blackadder scenes of trench warfare out of my mind and the enthusiasm of the big brass....30km behind the front....to have the troops go "over the top" into certain machine-gun fire and death for a very high percentage. Graves was one of those who through pure chance it seems....survived. And he survived to write the tale. Most didn't so we don't get to hear their stories of miraculous escapes etc.
Must say, that it all sounds dreadful:....."The colour of the dead faces changed from white to yellow-grey, to red, to purple, to green, to black, to slimy". And casual heroism: "Sampson lay groaning about twenty yards beyond the front trench. Several attempts were made to rescue him. He had been very badly hit. Three men got killed in these attempts; two officers and an orderly wounded. In the end his own orderly managed to crawl out to him. Sampson waved him back saying that he was riddled through and not worth rescuing; he sent his apologies to the company for making such a noise."
One of the themes that continually filtered through was the class consciousness both in the war and in the education system ...and in the universities. Graves, despite his welshness, clearly belongs to the upper class. He doesn't flaunt it....in fact, he seems to be almost unconscious of it. But the privilege extended to people of the same class and the special advantages extended via the "old-boys" network and officer's messes is palpable.
There is not much about his poems but since I've read the book I have taken the time to explore a few of his more popular poems: Two Fuisliers, Boy in churchyard, The kiss, Flying crooked; Double red daisies. Generally, I rather like them....like his skill with words ..though maybe not his knowledge of biology. Flying crooked demonstrates that he has no realisation that the cabbage white moth flies crooked for a special reason....it makes it harder for predators to swoop on it. It's an evolutionary survival mechanism. (OK that's not poetry....but it does demonstrate a gap in Grave's education and knowledge). And speaking of education, the English boarding school system comes across as being a great contributor to warped attitudes among those exposed to it. The casual comment by the headmaster of Charterhouse: "My boys are amorous but seldom erotic".......seems slightly weird to me. As Malcolm Muggeridge commented in his Bio..."Tread softly for you tread on my jokes"....he had girls and the affections between (frequently) senior boys and junior boys seemed very strange to him when he met up with these boarding school products at university. And Graves continued with his homoerotic relationship (from school) for many years it seems. (Though, presumably, didn't really see himself as gay).
Overall. Glad that I've read it and can now say "Goodbye to all that" myself. But it's not a book that I would consider re-reading so it will be donated to charity. ( )
  booktsunami | Mar 31, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
Writing "Good-bye to All That," Graves seized numerous opportunities to render the literal truth of the trenches in theatrical terms. And Graves was by no means alone in this: Just before the attack at Loos, a typical officer is recorded as experiencing "a feeling of unreality, as if I were acting on a stage." Seeking theatrical metaphors for the trench war, some journalists invoked the idea of tragedy. Graves will have none of such pretentiousness: To him, events at the front are more likely to resemble melodrama, comedy, farce or music hall. Or even that once-stylish English dramatic form, the Comedy of Humors, in which stock eccentric characters ("Humors") reveal their crazy obsessions and generally muddle things up.

 
Robert Graves's superbly sardonic account of his childhood, schooling, the great war and his first marriage was written in just four months in 1929, when he was 33. It was his attempt at "a formal good-bye to you and to you and to you and to me and to all that". By then he had separated from his wife and was living with the American poet Laura Riding. The idea of a farewell to the past was hers.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Guardian, PD Smith
 

» Add other authors (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graves, Robertprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fussell, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graves, Richard PercevalEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jarvis, MartinReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seymour, MirandaIntroductionsecondary 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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The most useful and, at the same time, most dangerous gift that I owe to my father’s side of the family – probably more to the Cheynes than to the Graves’s – is that I am always able, when dealing with officials, or getting privileges from public institutions which grudge them, to masquerade as a gentleman.
After tea we went into the garden, where Hardy asked to see some of my new poems. I fetched him one, and he wondered whether he might offer a suggestion: the phrase ‘the scent of thyme’, which occurred in it was, he said, one of the clichés which poets of his generation had studied to avoid. Could I perhaps alter it? When I replied that his contemporaries had avoided it so well that I could now use it without offence, he withdrew the objection.
Professor Edgeworth, of All Souls’, avoided conversational English, persistently using words and phrases that one expects to meet only in books. One evening, Lawrence returned from a visit to London, and Edgeworth met him at the gate. ‘Was it very caliginous in the Metropolis?’
‘Somewhat caliginous, but not altogether inspissated,’ Lawrence replied gravely.
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Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. HTML:

Robert Graves relates his time in the trenches.

Robert Graves's writing is versatile and intense. Famous as a war poet, his prose works are on a stage of their own, especially this piece, which is an autobiographical account of Grave's school days and life as a soldier in the trenches in World War 1. Political as well as personal, the piece is important historically, as it offers a rare insight into the lives of ordinary soldiers in the most extraordinary, and often horrific, circumstances. A necessary and absorbing listen, which not without its moments of humour, is enlightening and unsettling and undoubtedly importantly necessary for everybody. (Recommended 14+ age).

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