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Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves

Goodbye to All That (1929)

by Robert Graves

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War effects different people in different ways. Some it strengthens their convictions about matters of faith and some it weakens. Tolkien and Graves are two examples of such differing effects.

Some war memoirs very much focuses on the war. There is a little biography before and perhaps after to get the reader a basic understanding of the who the characters are in the protagonists life. This book on the other hand has quite a bit of autobiography in it. We learn about Graves' time in school. His comments about the problems with the British public school system of his youth. One critique he had was that the segregation of the boys from the girls caused quite a bit of homosexual activity, both physical and emotional. He states that for every one genuine homosexual male there were probably 9 experimenter. He was one of the 9 out of 10 though he never admits to anything graphic other than emotional attachment. He marries after the war and never mentions issues with male attraction after that point.

He talks about his love for climbing and long walks in the country. And he talks about getting in the military. He was fortunate enough to be guided into the officer corps. Talks about his time in training, adjusting to the military way of doing things, and finally being sent to France.

Naturally his experiences on the front lines are described. He was wounded on several occasions. Once seriously and he was reported dead. Which report was duly communicated to his family. He was able to communicate with them not to long afterwards and let them know he survived.

He speaks about life after the war. Going to school. Meeting and spending time with Lawrence of Arabia. Moving to Egypt for a year or so to teach. An abortive effort to open a general store. His few friends. Finally moving from England finding the politics and religion there disagreeable. He did return and was there during WWII which he mentions. One of his sons was killed in action as a British soldier.

Worth reading but the effects of his experience were not the effects on everyone who served. His faith was lost but not all responded to the war that way.

He did comment that Catholic priests on the front lines were better than the Protestant pastors. the priests pushed forward all the way into the trenches and were often there during attacks to give last rites and comfort to the dying. The Protestant pastors were rarely at the front. Some commanders noted the same issue in WII. Obviously not to the credit of the Protestants. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
Truthful, direct, unvarnished, beautifully written - but make sure you read the author's revised 1957 edition not the original. As well as his childhood and schooldays, Graves' account of the trenches in WWI tells of the horror, yes, but also the humour, the bravery - and the sharp differences there could be between infantry units - to the extent that they were or weren't well-trained and well-officered. And then the aftermath - as a poet among poets, in sophisticated Oxford and the relatively unchanged environment of a rural village. A must read. With thanks to Bill, who kindly gave me this copy. ( )
  NaggedMan | Mar 10, 2015 |
If you only want to read one book about the trench war and World War I, or the Great War, as it was called in its time, Goodbye to all that by Robert Graves would be an excellent choice. Graves was one of the long-term, active combattants. Goodbye to all that is a first-hand account of the horrors of trench warfare. It describes all the images which have since become emblematic for that event: snipers, gas, gas masks, severed limbs, etc. Horrors including sinking once fingers into a putrified corps while groping in the dark under shell fire, comrades who are felled by a shot in the skull from a sniper, and soldiers being blown up by grenades. There is also a passage in which he described the successive colours of the stages of decomposition of a corpse. Gruesome! Robert Graves survived these horrors much longer than most other soldiers, apparently through a great deal of luck, and the sensible attitude to not take any unnecessary risk, and pursuing a strategy of survival.

The first 80 pages, or so, deal with Graves time at boarding school in England, and the reality of war comes on very soon. The writing is very engaging, and the whole book is a very easy read. Towards the end, Graves descibes many literary figures he met, such as Siegfried Sassoon whom he actually met at the front, and other authors, later such as Aldous Huxley. The final 100 pages of the book seem to be dragging a bit, as they describe Graves life after the war.

Goodbye to all that is a very good introductory read to understanding the action of the Great War. ( )
  edwinbcn | Jan 5, 2015 |
Great book. Martin Jarvis is a wonderful reader. Robert Graves is very frank about his time in the trenches during World War l. It was eye opening! I was especially interested in his connection to George Mallory. Found this on a list of best books about World War l. ( )
  njcur | Aug 23, 2014 |
Graves' experiences during World War I is engaging. The banalities of life are described and judgments made as to the values remaining after his stint. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (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
Robert Gravesprimary 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:05 -0400)

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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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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141184590, 014104554X, 0241951410


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