7 WW1 Books Written by the Lost Generation

7 WW1 Books Written by the Lost Generation

7 WW1 Books Written by the Lost Generation

Melina Druga
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The First World War was a conflict that lasted from 1914-1918.  It had a deep physiological impact on those who lived through it.  This gave rise to the term “Lost Generation,” popularized by author Gertrude Stein.  The Lost Generation is defined as “ the generation of men and women who came of age during or immediately following World War 1: viewed as a result of their war experiences and the social upheaval of the time as cynical, disillusioned.”  Generally, this generation includes people born between 1883 and 1900.

The Lost Generation also refers to a literary movement after the war that included not only Stein, but other famous writers including T.S. Eliot and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Interested in hearing from the Lost Generation?  Here are seven books written about WW1 from the people who lived through it.

Seven WW1 Books Written by the Lost Generation

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The cover of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

German Paul Bäumer enlists with his classmates in the German army at the beginning of the war.  The men are enthusiastic, but soon their spirit is broken by military life and the reality of war.  If Bäumer can survive, he vows to fight a new enemy – hatred.

Learn more about Remarque.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

An American ambulance driver on the Italian front falls in love with an English nurse.  More than a love story, the novel also brings to life the horrors of war and examines the themes of loyalty and desertion.

Learn more about Hemingway.

The Good Soldier by Jaroslav Hašek

The Good Soldier by Jaroslav Hašek
The Good Soldier by Jaroslav Hašek

Švejk is called up at the beginning of the war and becomes the Austrian army’s most loyal Czech soldier.  While the authorities try to get him to the frontlines, his bad habits of getting drunk and card playing seem to have the opposite affect and prevent him from reaching the battlefield.

Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger
Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

A memoir of German soldier Jünger’s battlefield experiences, Storm of Steel highlights the author’s time surviving shellings, defending trenches and leading raiding parties. Jünger also prepared for death which he considered would be his ultimate failure during the war.

Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon

Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon

George Sherston is decorated for bravery and sent to the Fourth Army School for officer training.  After becoming wounded at the Battle of the Somme, Sherston is sent home to recover.  There, he begins to question the war and writes a public anti-war letter. His friend convinces a medical board not to prosecute but instead to declare that Sherston is suffering from shell-shock and to send him to a hospital for treatment.

Part of The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston trilogy and based partially on Sassoon’s war experiences.

Learn more about Sassoon.

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

British soldier Chris Baldry returns home from fighting in France with amnesia and cannot remember the last 15 years, including his marriage to wife Kitty.  Instead, he thinks he is 20 years old and still courting his first love Margaret.  Baldry’s cousin Jenny gets Margaret to help him regain his memories, but then the women have a choice: let him be happy or help him remember his trauma.

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

A memoir of Brittain’s time serving as a volunteer aid detachment nurse, Testament of Youth is the story of a woman who abandons her studies when she feels the call to duty.  By the end of the war, Brittain had lost her brother, her fiancé and several friends.

Learn more about Brittain.

Which WW1 books written by those who lived it would you add to the list?  Leave a comment below.

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Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.

4 thoughts on “7 WW1 Books Written by the Lost Generation

  1. Thanks for a fascinating list. Two additional works that would be on my list, would be Sagittarius Rising, by Cecil Lewis, recounting his time in the Royal Flying Corps, also Goodbye to all That, by Robert Graves. Both of these are written with out any self-pity, and with a lot of dark humour. One account by Robert Graves always sticks in my mind, when he was duty officer and was approached by two of his men. (I might not have this exactly). \”Excuse me, Sir, we\’re terribly sorry, but we\’ve shot our sergeant-major.\” \”Why did you do that?\” \”It was an accident, sir. we thought he was the sergeant.\”

    Cecil Lewis was also quite self-deprecating, recalling a number of hare-brained inventions that invariably went wrong, like an experimental bomb that exploded while still in the cradle, creating a great hole in the plane, and peppering the backside of the navigator with shrapnel. These lighter moments only reinforced the misery and tragedy of the theme of both novels.

    I\’m intending to read Testament of Youth at some point; my appreciation of that is due entirely to a brilliant 1979 dramatisation starring Cheryl Campbell, and also from recollections from Vera Brittain\’s Daughter, Baroness Williams.

    Thanks the for opportunity to comment.

  2. Good selection. I’d suggest the addition of Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos. Like Hemingway, he volunteered as an ambulance driver and saw the war from that vantage point, providing the inspiration for this anti-war novel.

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