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From Here to Eternity (1951)

by James Jones

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: World War II Trilogy (1)

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1,738297,357 (4)128
Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1941.  Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a champion welterweight and a fine bugler.  But when he refuses to join the company's boxing team, he gets "the treatment" that may break him or kill him.  First Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden knows how to soldier better than almost anyone, yet he's risking his career to have an affair with the commanding officer's wife.  Both Warden and Prewitt are bound by a common bond:  the Army is their heart and blood . . .and, possibly, their death. In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier's life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence and passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair. . .in the most important American novel to come out of World War II, a masterpiece that captures as no ther the honor and savagery of men. From the Paperback edition.… (more)
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English (28)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (29)
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
In 1941 Hawaii, a private is cruelly punished for not boxing on his unit's team, while his captain's wife and second in command are falling in love.
(source: TMDb)
  aptrvideo | Apr 14, 2021 |
A doorstop (nearly 1000 pages) published in 1951 tells the fictional story from the inside of a number of enlisted men of an infantry division of the United States Army posted in Hawaii in 1941 taking in the attack on Pearl harbour. The author James Jones enlisted in the US army in 1939 at the age of 17 in the 25th infantry division stationed in Hawaii and uses that experience to make his novel drip with the realism of life in an army barracks during the first year of the second world war for the United States. This is not a novel for the feint hearted and forcibly expresses the culture of army life in the 1940's when men were hardened for war and all the women were called whores. It is a novel that takes you into another world, one that probably still exists to a certain extent and I found myself wrapped up in the edginess of the characters who fight to make sense of the life of men who serve in the armed forces.

About three quarters of the way through the novel Private Robert E Lee Prewitt is court-martialled for assaulting a senior offices. He is a man who you would be wise to ask first before using his nickname Prew. His pride and his obstinacy have set him up against the system that he knows and loves. He has been overlooked for a promotion and transferred to another unit who take him because of his boxing skills (before hostilities, commissioned officers lived or died by the athletic successes of the men they commanded), but Prewitt for personal reasons will not join the boxing team. He is given the "treatment" by his commanding officers who want to break his spirit and make him change his mind. When an irresistible force meets an immovable object then Prewitts path to a court martial and time in prison (the Stockade) seems inevitable

In room no 2 in the stockade Prew thinks that he is amongst men just like himself - he thinks “that he did not have to explain", because each one of them had the same hard unbroachable sense of ridiculous personal honour that he had never been able to free himself from either.

Hard labour in the stockade comes with cruel beatings as the breaking of a man's spirit is the only way of getting him in the right frame of mind to take his place back in the army.

Private Prewitts story runs in parallel to that of Milt Warden a staff sergeant who takes pride in his ability to play the system for his own ends. Like Prewitt he has the same pride in his abilities; pouring scorn on those around him who he can harass and bully. The Warden as he is called finds himself in deep water when he falls in love with his commanding officers wife. His playing of the system does not stretch quite far enough to allow him to indulge in a long term affair with Karen Holmes and like Prewitt who falls in love with Alma the most beautiful girl in the services-men's brothel he struggles to contain his feelings within the context of the harsh army life that he leads.

Towards the end of the novel the attack on Pearl Harbour which results in the infantry seeing action for the first time albeit far enough back from the centre of the attack so as not to endanger life: leads to the army being put on a war footing with the inevitable tightening of security measures. Both Prewitt and Warden are forced to make choices in a new lockdown situation.

Author James Jones knew how the army works and his own experiences would have enabled him to draw and refine the male characters that people his novel and while he may have too rosey a picture of the women who work in the brothels, he is more convincing with the restrictions that army wives must undergo and the life that they are forced to lead. His book bristles with machismo and sexism as the cultural norm, but there is room for finer feelings and briefly Warden and to a lesser extent Prewitt attempt to find a more enlightened viewpoint. They indulge themselves in cod psychology and Prewitt is searching for someone to provide him with some answers that he can accept. Jones is careful not to take this too far and the level of discussion is probably fitting to that of young army recruits, however these young recruits do not lack experience of the culture of a disciplined service that needs to be ready for war.

Jones attempts to re-create the dialogue that he would have heard during his time in the army and so there is some slang; phrases are shortened and words are made up or misspelt. This gives his story some authenticity, but is not overdone to the extent of making parts of his book unreadable. I found the whole novel very readable indeed. This was Jones first novel and he went onto write [Some Came Running] and [The Thin Red Line] among others in which his military experience and knowledge also played a major part. I am pleased to have been taken into the world that Jones inhabited, but probably won't feel the need to read another. However 4 stars for this mammoth undertaking.

I hope to catch a showing of the 1953 film soon if only to see Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling about in the surf on the beach. ( )
1 vote baswood | Sep 5, 2020 |
https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3151822.html

As usual, I liked the book more than the film. I think the only parts that grated were where relatively unsophisticated soldiers engaged in deep conversations about Art and Literature which felt a bit like the author talking to his imaginary friends. As noted above, the character of Maggio is much less well developed and the women get relatively less viewpoint time than in the film. But in general it's a lot more substantial, a lot more frank about sex and complex emotions; several particularly good subplots were cut from the script; the army of Jones' novel may not have any black soldiers, but it does have Jews and Indians, unlike the army in the film; the Hawaii of the novel has a lot more non-white people than the Hawaii of the film. And it's very well written, tensely close to the geography of 1941 Honolulu, to the point that one can follow Prewitt's track from Alma and Georgette's house to the fatal golf course quite readily on the mapping app of your choice. It's a darker story than the film (which is already dark enough); Warden and Karen's relationship is considerably more rocky on the page (there's a grim passage where they sneak away for a romantic break and discover that they can't actually stand each other's company for more than an hour or so) and Prewitt's final disintegration is recounted at length. I think it's a rather old-fashioned book, in that it's really all about the men, but it's pretty gripping all the same. ( )
  nwhyte | Jan 29, 2019 |
This novel was a real eye-opener for me. I had not yet watched the iconic movie with Burt Lancaster, Debra Kerr and Frank Sinatra when I read the book, so I felt compelled to view the movie after I finished it. There are many differences between the book and the movie. Firstly, this is a big book. There is no way that all of it would have fit into a two-hour movie. Secondly, the US Army insisted on extensive edits before it would allow its personnel, land and equipment to be used in the movie. All the cursing, prostitution, homosexuality and suicide was excised for the film. Most of the violent discipline was also deleted. Thirdly, some characters were hugely revised. Last but not least, the language in the song, "Reenlistment Blues, " was cleaned up.It was helpful for me to be able to see actors portraying the characters I had read about. It was even better to be able to hear the melody to "Reenlistment Blues."After finishing the book, I saw on a trivia site that more than 85% of American army recruits had homosexual experiences in WW II. I asked my father about this. I do not recommend that anyone else try asking that. ( )
1 vote Patricia_Winters | Jan 10, 2018 |
The book is more realistic and detailed but the movie is more entertaining. ( )
  Brava10 | Nov 25, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Reminded me a bit of Celine, unmitigated pressure, a cross between hell and purgatory set against the backdrop of paradise in the Hawaiian Islands.
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
James Jonesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kliphuis, J.F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schrag, OttoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The sphinx must solve her own riddle. If the whole of history is in one man, it is all to be explained from individual experience. Emmerson.
I have eaten your bread and salt.
I have drunk your water and wine.
The deaths ye died I watched beside,
And the lives ye led were mine.
--Rudyard Kipling
Gentlemen-rankers out on a spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha'mercy on such as we,
Ba! Yah! Bah!
--Rudyard Kipling
Dedication
To the United States Army
First words
When he finished packing, he walked out on to the third-floor porch of the barracks brushing the dust from his hands, a very neat and deceptively slim young man in the summer khakis that were still early morning fresh.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Diamond Head, Hawaii, 1941.  Pvt. Robert E. Lee Prewitt is a champion welterweight and a fine bugler.  But when he refuses to join the company's boxing team, he gets "the treatment" that may break him or kill him.  First Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden knows how to soldier better than almost anyone, yet he's risking his career to have an affair with the commanding officer's wife.  Both Warden and Prewitt are bound by a common bond:  the Army is their heart and blood . . .and, possibly, their death. In this magnificent but brutal classic of a soldier's life, James Jones portrays the courage, violence and passions of men and women who live by unspoken codes and with unutterable despair. . .in the most important American novel to come out of World War II, a masterpiece that captures as no ther the honor and savagery of men. From the Paperback edition.

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