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