The Oregon Book Report - Book News from Oregon

Autobiography at 33 becomes classic

January 16, 2014

bk-gdbyetoallthat'Kirsten S. Badger
Baker City Author
Excerpt here From Science to Selling Moose Nuggets; No Career, No Regret

Review of the book “Good-bye to All That” by author Robert Graves

Recognizing the title, but without knowing anything about it other than that is was a classic, I picked up a used copy of the revised second edition from 1957 of Robert Graves’ Good-bye to All That, first published in 1929.

A quote from the prologue looked promising, I wonder how my publisher escaped a libel action.

It turned out to be his autobiography, written at the age of 33, just before he left his native England for good to live in Spain. He was by then already well known as a poet and writer.

The first 20% of the book is devoted to his childhood that mainly consisted of the trials for a non-conformist of a middle-class English boyhood at various unpleasant boarding schools. A quote, I paid so heavily for the fourteen years of my gentleman’s education that I feel entitled, now and then, to get some sort of return.

In 1914, at the start of World War I, he volunteered and at the age of 20 found himself in the trenches in France as a second-lieutenant. With a great sense of the bizarre in a situation where the British and the Germans took turns conquering and re-conquering each others trenches at great cost of lives, he describes with compassion and irony everyday life under fire in the mud with its comradery, numbness to the gruesome, optimism, pessimism, joking, confusion, superstition, heroism, and the absurdity of rigid military custom under the circumstances.

After the war, he suffered from what today would be recognized as PTSD. He found it increasingly difficult to live among people who had no idea of what the troops had been through — hence the title.

Most of us know there was trench warfare and that one Christmas Night the soldiers from both sides got out of their ditches and sang Silent Night together. This book gives a well-written personal account of what it was really like for the individual soldier. That is as relevant today as back then, and makes the book timeless.

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Discuss this article

Amy C. January 20, 2014

Just surprising how young authors can burst into the scene like that.

Just ME January 21, 2014

It would be interesting to see how he described PTSD before we knew about it.

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