|About the Book|
Civilization, 1914–1917 is a largely autobiographical narrative of the Great War written by a remarkable observer—a French physician, poet, and novelist who treated the wounded and performed some two thousand operations in mobile hospital unitsMoreCivilization, 1914–1917 is a largely autobiographical narrative of the Great War written by a remarkable observer—a French physician, poet, and novelist who treated the wounded and performed some two thousand operations in mobile hospital units during the war. First published in 1918 and translated into English the following year, the book was awarded the Prix Goncourt and a special award of the Académie Française. Out of print for ninety years, Georges Duhamel’s account is available once more in this Joseph M. Bruccoli Great War Series edition featuring a new introduction by Catharine Savage Brosman, which offers a biographical sketch of Duhamel and places his work within the context of French narratives of World War I.Duhamel’s book comprises sixteen vignettes in which character rather than plot remains the constant focus. Each tale is presented in the first person but with varying narrators. The settings are often field medical units just miles away from the bombardments. Here the stench of blood, plight of the wounded, and efforts of well-intentioned doctors bring to the fore the realities of war as Duhamel knew them to be. Pathos, anger, and frustration are more plentiful than any sense of glory, duty, or honor in these circumstances. In lieu of the political and nationalistic considerations of war that dominate the writings of some of his contemporaries, Duhamel’s narratives offer instead the historical and literary merits of his keen attention to details—particularly concerning combat medicine—and his rich development of the varied tones, characters, and locations of his sketches. Throughout the book Duhamel pits those characters and efforts meant to preserve and mend humanity against an overarching machine age and its armored acolytes intent on human destruction. The resulting collection works to bear authoritative witness to the war on the Western Front and to extract from the author’s experiences some measure of poetic truth about the nature of civilization in our modern age.