Der Tag

John Bayley

  • D-Day: Those Who Were There by Juliet Gardiner
    Collins and Brown, 192 pp, £16.99, April 1994, ISBN 1 85585 204 7
  • D-Day 1944: Voices from Normandy by Robin Neillands and Roderick De Normann
    Orion, 320 pp, £5.99, April 1994, ISBN 1 85797 448 4
  • Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army’s Art of Attack by Paddy Griffiths
    Yale, 286 pp, £20.00, May 1994, ISBN 0 300 05910 8
  • The D-Day Encyclopedia edited by David Chandler and James Lawton Collins
    Helicon, 665 pp, £35.00, January 1994, ISBN 0 09 178265 1
  • D-Day 1944 edited by Theodore Wilson
    Kansas, 420 pp, £34.95, May 1994, ISBN 0 7006 0674 2
  • Decision in Normandy by Carlo d’Este
    HarperCollins, 554 pp, £10.99, April 1994, ISBN 0 06 092495 0

For Tolstoy and Hemingway, as for Homer, writing about war was the natural thing. They did not exactly worship the demands of ‘hateful Ares’, as Homer calls him; but they knew that war as hell was the proper field of the heroic, and thus of narrative itself. The story of what happens in a football match today is our equivalent of yesterday’s battle; and it can be established later, as game, in the same heroic sequence. Who is taking care of the left flank? What is General Grouchy up to, and how soon can the Prussians be in action? At the height of his description of the Battle of Borodino Tolstoy breaks off to imagine a spirit of the pities, who cries to the combatants: ‘Just a moment!’ and ‘Consider what it is you do!’ But having satisfied, as it were, the requirements of amazement and revulsion, Tolstoy the narrator, and the soldiers he writes about, go right back to the business in hand. That is the world’s business after all, as it is the tale of what happens in the world.

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