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Goodbye to All That (1929)

by Robert Graves

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,351593,034 (4.01)189
""The objects of this autobiography, written at the age of thirty-three, are simple enough: an opportunity for a formal good-bye to you and to you and to you and to me and to all that; forgetfulness, because once all this has been settled in my mind and written down and published it need never be thought about again; money."" "Thus begins Robert Graves's classic 1929 autobiography with its searing account of life in the trenches of the First World War; and yet this opening passage, together with much significant material, has been unavailable since 1957, when a middle-aged Graves totally revised his text, robbing it of the painfully raw edge that had helped to make it an international bestseller. By 1957 major changes in his private life had taken place. Graves was no longer living with the American poet Laura Riding, under whose influence and in whose honor the original had been written. By cutting out all references to Riding, by deleting passages which revealed the mental strains under which he had labored, and by meticulously editing the entire text, Graves destroyed most of what had made it so powerful but also removed it from the only context in which it could be fully understood. We are pleased to offer the original 1929 edition on the occasion of Graves's 100th anniversary, edited and annotated by Robert Graves's nephew and biographer, whose lucid introduction greatly enhances its value."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
This one's been on my wish list for a very long time, so I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

Around two-thirds of Graves' memoir focuses on his time as a soldier on the front in WWI, while the remaining third bookends this with insights on his time at Charterhouse public school before the war broke out and his life after the war.

Graves' time at public school wasn't particularly enjoyable, but his account read as a very honest account of boys' boarding school, including the love affairs and crushes that developed amongst the boys. That first part of the book was OK, but the really interesting part of the memoir starts when Graves enlists and is sent to the front. His account not only vividly gives you a visual perspective on the theatre of that war, and the horrendous conditions in the trenches, but also shows how his mental attitude to what was going on around him changed over time, and how terribly affected he was for ten years after the war ended with what we would call PTSD now.

What I also found fascinating was the insight into how upper class Britain functioned in terms of connections from education opening doors at a young age to important positions such as consulate roles and university teaching positions. I didn't get the impression from Graves' account that this was influenced by the huge loss of life in WWI; more, it was just how things worked. I couldn't help but fast forward 100 years in my mind to our current UK government, still so heavily dominated by that public school /Oxbridge network of cronies - clearly it's a network that's still very successful in looking after its own. Graves isn't shy about name dropping, and I enjoyed hearing his accounts of brushing shoulders with characters such as Thomas Hardy, Ezra Pound, Wilfred Owen, T.S. Eliot, George Mallory and T.E. Lawrence.

I also found this era's huge interest in poetry fascinating, with important characters from many different walks of life seemingly interested in being introduced to Graves after enjoying his poetry. I expect that the War fuelled a lot of the poetry revival in that era, which Graves mentions drops off in terms of public interest some years later.

All in all a very enjoyable memoir, and worth the wait.

4 stars - a vivid account of a key time in history, seen through the eyes of a colourful and interesting character. ( )
  AlisonY | Oct 7, 2021 |
It is a great critique of World War I, but god are war details hard to follow! You'd need an organisation chart of the British army beside you to make any sense out of a lot of it. I guess if you're an early-20th century English public schoolboy or a military history nut it'd be easy for you, but for the rest of us it needs some glossing. ( )
  Clare_L | Sep 20, 2021 |
I enjoyed the memoir stuff from before and after his enlistment (ages 18 - 22) more than the WWI adventures. It seemed like a therapeutic retelling for him. Loved to hear how radical he and his wife were after the war, good commies and she was such a feminist that she regretted their marriage ceremony and wished they could have lived in sin instead. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
Graves on early life and WWI
  ritaer | Jun 20, 2021 |
https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3628300.html

It's a really good read. A bit more than half of it is one of the classic accounts of the war on the Western Front, the gritty horror of battle conditions vividly conveyed; Graves also gives us a good perspective of what soldiers actually thought, generally nothing like as jingoistic as those at home, himself in charge of Welsh soldiers some of whom had very little English; he became a friend of Siegfried Sassoon in the trenches and lost many to whom he was close. The narrative is leavened by shafts of gallows humour.

It's topped and tailed by his early life - grandson of an Irish bishop, great-nephew of the German historian von Ranke, awful public school where his longest-lasting friendship was with one of the teachers, George Mallory, eventually the best man at Graves' first wedding before he died on Everest - and the the period after the war, when he ended up at Oxford as tenants of John Masefield and his wife (who incidentally was an Ulsterwoman), having married the young but very feminist Nancy Nicholson, with what appears to have been every single living English poet living in the neighbourhood.

But he was obviously too badly affected by PTSD from his wartime experiences to be able to settle in England, or with Nancy; after a brief excursion to Egypt (where he later heard that Nasser had been one of his students) he leaves for Majorca never to return. It's a good and quick read. ( )
  nwhyte | May 17, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (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 (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graves, Robertprimary 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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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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""The objects of this autobiography, written at the age of thirty-three, are simple enough: an opportunity for a formal good-bye to you and to you and to you and to me and to all that; forgetfulness, because once all this has been settled in my mind and written down and published it need never be thought about again; money."" "Thus begins Robert Graves's classic 1929 autobiography with its searing account of life in the trenches of the First World War; and yet this opening passage, together with much significant material, has been unavailable since 1957, when a middle-aged Graves totally revised his text, robbing it of the painfully raw edge that had helped to make it an international bestseller. By 1957 major changes in his private life had taken place. Graves was no longer living with the American poet Laura Riding, under whose influence and in whose honor the original had been written. By cutting out all references to Riding, by deleting passages which revealed the mental strains under which he had labored, and by meticulously editing the entire text, Graves destroyed most of what had made it so powerful but also removed it from the only context in which it could be fully understood. We are pleased to offer the original 1929 edition on the occasion of Graves's 100th anniversary, edited and annotated by Robert Graves's nephew and biographer, whose lucid introduction greatly enhances its value."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141184590, 014104554X, 0241951410

 

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