By Jules Romains

Published by Prion Books Ltd. (1999)

February 1916 saw the opening stages of one of the most fearful battles of the World War I, at Verdun, between France and Germany. The German High Command believed in a strategy of attrition and felt that Germany could, by choosing a point of attack which the French felt they would have to defend at all costs, bleed France to death. They chose Verdun, a small fortress that had been of strategic importance to France for hundreds of years. Six months late, after 400,000 French lay dead and wounded, and as many German, the assault was abandoned and in October the French recaptured the forts and territory they had lost earlier. Jules Romain's novel "Verdun", two of the volumes of his huge "Men of Good Will", contains fictional characters but is entirely based on fact. It makes the horrors of the Great War live in an intense way. Divided into two sectioins, "The Prelude" and "The Battle", its huge canvas embraces the front itself and the horrors of the artillery bombardments and the "over the top" offensives; the General Staffs and their headquarters, their strategic "vision" and the intrigues in the upper military echelons. Jules Romains (1885-1972) was founder of the "unanimiste" school of writing that sought universal brotherhood through group consciousness and which expressed a diminution of individual self in face of a merged, communal identity. Other members of the group also wrote huge multi-volume novels, called "romans fleuves", river novels, that sought to embrace every aspect of life. Romains published Verdun in 1938 and it was published in English the year after.

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