“Once Upon a Time in a War” by John Steinbeck

“The war I am referring to could remain in our memory because there will be no one else like him. Our civil war was called the last of the “gentlemen’s wars”, and the so-called World War II was without a doubt the last of the long global wars. The next one, if we’re stupid enough to pass up, will be the last of any kind. There will be no one left to remember anything. And if we’re that stupid, we don’t even deserve, in a biological sense, survival. ”

“It has been 77 years,” the editors write, “since Steinbeck boarded a troop transport bound for England and will report to the New York Herald Tribune on the war that affected Europe.” The cuts it makes do not measure the pulse of the commanders, of those who have access to the meeting rooms where strategies were established, but of the masses participating in the war: superstitions, preconceptions, anecdotes about the Anglo-American plant war or about the ace of war. Opportunists in all force, allies, the tireless Bob Hope and the spoils of war Lili Marlene. In total indifference to the journalistic canon, all this is bathed in the style already established, at that time, of the writer John Ernst Steinbeck. As Steinbeck clouded over European beaches, his NYHT column quickly became one of the biggest attractions in the daily press and began to spread across the United States and beyond, in space and time to the present day. The author’s signed introduction provides an invaluable key to reading. ”

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“Steinbeck’s war reports are memorable not so much for their historical value as for their strong personal, deeply human notes, the vitality with which the effect of the war on those on a troop transport, an airfield in England or behind the front. The scene changes, sometimes in England, sometimes in North Africa, sometimes in Italy, but in all the stories there is the same insight, the same compassion and understanding of the common man that characterizes Steinbeck’s fiction . (…) These reports are first-hand stories about America’s youth in the war, told by an incomparable storyteller. Quality journalism, yes, but also quality literature. ”(Kirkus reviews)

John Steinbeck – There was once a war. English translation and notes by Ona Frantz. Editorial Polirom. 260 p.

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Myrtle Frost

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