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War, Literature and Remembrance Day

While this year’s 11th of November is special because of the year and the resulting number palindrome, it has long been a day of remembrance for fallen soldiers. According to the Wikipedia article,

Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy DayArmistice Day or Veterans Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty since World War I. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognized as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries. Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the official end of World War I on that date in 1918; hostilities formally ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice (“at the 11th hour” refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 a.m.

Wars have contributed to the Western literary canon for thousands of years, beginning with The Iliad by Homer (written betwen 1195-1184 CE) and continuing today with books coming out of both international and civil wars. Many authors have glorified war as noble and brave, but as Wilfred Owen retorted in his famous poem “Dulce et Decorum Est” that it is not ‘sweet and right’ to die for your country.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

We could list hundreds of books about war, whether its about current or past wars, the soldiers or the civilians. For now, here’s a selection of new and old works dealing with the theme of war, and notable additions to any collection on war literature and film. What are your favourite war stories? Share with us in the comments thread!

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