December 16, 2004

Sing of Arms and Men

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any pro-war novels of "high literary merit", but Walt Whitman's later versions of Leaves of Grass certainly had some serious drumbeat-to-battle verses about the Civil War. "Over the Carnage Rose Prophetic a Voice" comes to mind. For someone who spent most of his time in hospitals, treating wounds and watching men die by the handful, Whitman never wavered much in believing the justness of the Union cause, and never treats human death as a something that undermines that cause, in the way that, say, the Adventures of Kavalier and Clay does. (Though the latter seems to worry more about an obsession with war—actually, this warrants a post of its own.)

Hmm… I guess you could add a Farewell to Arms. Yukio Mishima, as well, was a very pro-war writer (not only his attack on the Japanese Defense Forces at the end of his life, but early on he wanted to enlist in the Japanese Army), but I can't think of any specifically pro-war novels he wrote. John Updike's early Rabbit novels are tilted in favor of Vietnam, but they're not exactly pro-war in any meaningful sense. Hugo's Les Miserables strikes me as a bit jingoistic at times (think of his rhapsody on the unnamed soldier at Waterloo).
-- Brad Plumer 4:25 PM || ||