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I have often lamented the lack of German World War I perspectives Erich Maria Remarque aside, I usually read works by British and French scholars, memoirists, diarists, and novelists Fortunately here is a fine memoir translated from the German by the esteemed Michael Hofmann I like its very flat spare prose Everything is simply allowed to stand for itself bravery, death, corpses, blood, shrapnel, friendship, dreams Plainly declarative, there is no unnecessary coloration, no prolixity, no s I have often lamented the lack of German World War I perspectives Erich Maria Remarque aside, I usually read works by British and French scholars, memoirists, diarists, and novelists Fortunately here is a fine memoir translated from the German by the esteemed Michael Hofmann I like its very flat spare prose Everything is simply allowed to stand for itself bravery, death, corpses, blood, shrapnel, friendship, dreams Plainly declarative, there is no unnecessary coloration, no prolixity, no subtext, little in the way of moral judgement After reading Robert Graves s Goodbye to All That about the efficiency of the German trenches, I found it fascinating to get a sense of how those fortifications were built and how they functioned Niall Ferguson in The Pity of War goes on at some length about the greater efficiency of German soldiers than their opponents J nger has here provided at least one example the Germans simply didn t have the resources munitions, for example that the Entente Powers had They had to dowith less, and did so Hundreds of British soldiers were running forward through a flat communications trench, little troubled by the weak gunfire we were able to direct at them The scene was indicative of the inequality of resources with which we had to fight Had we essayed the same thing, our units would have been shot to pieces in a matter of minutes.Author Ernst J nger was nineteen, the proverbial ephebe, when he went to the front He was at first an enlisted man in the infantry who after a brief convalescence was commissioned an ensign and given responsibility for a platoon He was frequently on the frontlines during the early years, responsible for his short stretch of the line, his poor comrades dropping all around him like flies I suppose the oddest moments are when the tone becomes madcap, devil may care, despite the storm of steel J nger was wounded with varying degrees of severity fourteen times by his count, except for the last time he was afterward always sent back to the front Such travails you would think might sour a man, yet the attitude he evinced toward the British, which his soldiers shared, was anything but ungentlemanly The British sargeant practically had both legs sheered off by hand grenade splinters even so, with stoical calm, he kept his pipe clenched between his teeth to the end This incident, like all our other encounters with the Britishers, left us pleasantly impressed by their bravery and manliness.In the Introduction to the book translator Michael Hofmann quotes Gide who wrote in his diary Ernst J nger s book on the 1914 War, Storm of Steel, is without question the finest book on war that I know utterly honest, truthful, in good faith I would agree It is the finest book on World War I from the German perspective that I know It also represents an utterly obsolete means of statecraft War s elimination will only happen by way of the collective will of all of us I ask you therefore to please sign the Charter for Compassion Thank you An oddly jaunty memoir of the Western Front, characterised by what J nger describes somewhere as his strange mood of melancholy exultation I am surprised so many people have found his prose clean , sparse , unemotional I thought the opposite, that it was rather over literary in many places not overwritten exactly, but with touches of a grand Romantic sensibility that I haven t found in English or French writers of the First World War The white ball of a shrapnel shell melted far off, s An oddly jaunty memoir of the Western Front, characterised by what J nger describes somewhere as his strange mood of melancholy exultation I am surprised so many people have found his prose clean , sparse , unemotional I thought the opposite, that it was rather over literary in many places not overwritten exactly, but with touches of a grand Romantic sensibility that I haven t found in English or French writers of the First World War The white ball of a shrapnel shell melted far off, suffusing the grey December sky The breath of battle blew across to us, and we shuddered Did we sense that almost all of us some sooner, some later were to be consumed by it, on days when the dark grumbling yonder would crash over our heads like an incessant thunder In the heat of battle, where Barbusse and Genevoix feel a nauseated horror, J nger instead feels an almost visionary excitement even a twinge of arousal Where Sassoon and Manning lament the loss or corruption of their entire generation, J nger merely comments with apparent approbation that over four years, the fire smelted an ever purer, ever bolder warriorhood.It s all very slightly off putting and the tone is quite hard to judge, despite the newness of this translation from Michael Hofmann He Hofmann spends a lot of time in his introduction denigrating his predecessor Basil Creighton s version of 1929 this is not a classy move, particularly when I wouldn t call his own translation especially fluent though I m sure there are fewer direct errors There are many odd word choices like grunt for soldier, which to my ears is very American and anyway wasn t used before the 1960s and repeatedly using splinter to describe a huge piece of shrapnel that can pierce a man s chest gives, I think, the wrong impression Most of all, there is a lot of that awkward juxtaposition between high and low register that is the hallmark of translationese A lark ascends its trilling gets on my wick.Hofmann knows his subject, though, and his introductory essay has some interesting comments that contextualise Storm of Steel what an appropriately George RR Martinesque title that is He makes the intriguing and, I think, convincing suggestion that J nger s book has a natural epic form , as opposed to comparable accounts in English which are lyrical or dramatic There are indeed many moments here that you might fairly call Homeric, not least in their tone of gung ho excitement and considering this helped me clarify what it was I disliked about the book.Because isn t it the case that the epic form, with its tendency to revel in the glory of war, is in some sense fundamentally dishonest and,to the point, isn t that precisely one of the lessons that the First World War taught us Expecting a Marinetti like vociferation, an avant garde hymn to mechanical war, I initially found J nger s narrative a little flat In The Great War and Modern Memory Paul Fussell makes J nger sound entertainingly gauche, a gas goggled steampunk berserker with a will to power prose style I was bored by the 100 pages preceding chapter 7, Guillemont, whose evocation of the Battle of the Somme finally hooked me A runner from a W rttemberg regiment reported to me to guide my platoon to the fa Expecting a Marinetti like vociferation, an avant garde hymn to mechanical war, I initially found J nger s narrative a little flat In The Great War and Modern Memory Paul Fussell makes J nger sound entertainingly gauche, a gas goggled steampunk berserker with a will to power prose style I was bored by the 100 pages preceding chapter 7, Guillemont, whose evocation of the Battle of the Somme finally hooked me A runner from a W rttemberg regiment reported to me to guide my platoon to the famous town of Combles, where we were to be held in reserve for the time being He was the first German soldier I saw in a steel helmet, and he straightaway struck me as a denizen of a new and far harsher world Sitting next to him in a roadside ditch, I questioned him avidly about the state of the position, and got from him a grey tale of days hunkered in craters, with no outside contact or communications lines, of incessant attacks, fields of corpses and crazy thirst, of the wounded left to die, andof the same The impassive features under the rim of the steel helmet and the monotonous voice accompanied by the noise of the battle made a ghostly impression on us A few days had put their stamp on the runner, who was to escort us into the realm of flame, setting him inexpressibly apart from us If a man falls, he is left to die No one can help No one knows if he ll return alive Every day we re attacked, but they won t get through Everyone knows this is about life and death Nothing was left in his voice but equanimity, apathy fire had burned everything else out of it It s men like that you need for fighting.That J nger sees the runner as one of the men you need for fighting instead of a pitiable hollow man is pretty characteristic Storm of Steel may not be a Futurist manifesto, but neither is it a rueful anti war meditation, with the Western Front as a stereotyped literary inferno where Europe is dying and no one is right J nger is far from elated by the infernal engines plowing the landscape and vaporizing whole platoons but he doesn t think they cancel his chivalric gymnastic idea of soldiering His war remains an arena of individual dash, a tournament of gallants Even in these frightful moments, something droll could happen A man next to me pulled his rifle to his cheek and pretended to shoot at a rabbit that suddenly came bounding through our lines It all happened so abruptly, I had to laugh Nothing is ever so terrible that some bold and amusing fellow can t trump it Storm of Steel was published in 1920 and retained, through numerous revisions this translation uses the final, 1961 edition , much of Lt J nger s apolitical, athletic euphoria in battle, his consummately personal drive to win His enemy isn t the British Empire or the French Republic he seeks out and kills the men in the opposite trench, the opposing team a year before war broke out, J nger was in the French army he ran away from school, from the straitened routine of well to do bourgeois, and joined the Foreign Legion Bruce Chatwin called J nger s persona an aesthete in the center of a tornado, quoting Stendahl another soldier writer adventurer To that I would add a teenage Quixote pursuing a private errand through the battle royale of empires, an incarnation of bardic archaisms amid industrial global war Storm of Steel is shaped as a saga J nger consistently favors legendary parallels Lobbing grenades while storming British trenches is just updated swordplay, really Then you hurled your own bomb, and leaped forward One barely glanced at the crumpled body of one s opponent he was finished, and a new duel was commencing The exchange of hand grenades reminded me of fencing with foils you need to jump and stretch, almost as in ballet It s the deadliest of duels, as it variably ends with one or other of the participants being blown to smithereens Or both.He says his personal attendant, Vinke, followed me into battle like the squires of yore he also scraped J nger clean after he stumbled into a puddle of someone else s panic diarrhea Strolling about in the radiant and narcotic lush blooming May of 1917 J nger reflects mystically It s easier to go into battle against such a setting than in cold wintry weather The simple soul is convinced here that his life is deeply embedded in nature, and that his death is no end.With sacks of grenades strapped across his chest, he led one of the teams of storm troops that stove in the British lines in March 1918, as part of Ludendorff s last ditch gamble to defeat the Allies before fast arriving fresh American troops could tip the balance J nger gestures only vaguely at the strategic momentousness of the Michael Offensive and gives it afabulous title The Great Battle Storm of Steel stops in September 1918 not with Germany s impending defeat, but with J nger s own apotheosis as a warrior The last line of the book is the text of a telegram he received in hospital His Majesty the Kaiser has bestowed on you the order pour le M rite In the name of the whole division, I congratulate you The Kaiser, who is two months from abdication and exile the Croix pour le M rite, established by Frederick the Great, and the highest award available to servants of the dying Kaiserreich J nger was one of the last to win it, and when he died in 1998, the latest surviving recipient The first 100 pages of Storm of Steel bored me, hence the 3 stars, but the remainder is thrilling I wasn t surprised to read that the bookish half blind young Borges, with his cult of gaucho knife fights and macabre tangos, adored J nger s stylish, violent, essentially cold blooded testament In the afternoons, the village was under bombardment from all sorts of weapons and calibers In spite of the danger, I was always loath to leave the attic window of the house, because it was an exciting sight, watching units and individual messengers hurrying across the field of fire, often hurling themselves to the ground, while the earth whirled and spat to the left and right of them Peeping over destiny s shoulder like that to see her hand, it s easy to become negligent and risk one s own life.Of course, J nger gives off a strong whiff of Fascism Walter Benjamin dismissed his nationalist writings of the 1920s as sinister runic humbug J nger s archaic airs bear a family resemblance to the programmatic primitivism of the nuttier avant garde and the Nazis, and Hitler craved his prestigious endorsement but the same solipsism that allowed J nger to fight the Great War as a personal quest kept him out of mass politics, however much he condemned the Weimar Republic and dreamt of a rearmed Germany also, he was not an anti Semite With the profits of the bestselling Storm of Steel he bought a rural retreat and pursued entomological researches he was fond of ard beetles His situation in the 1930s was that of an internal migr We recomfortable with the Soviet version Oblique and private opposition to Hitler we read as cowardice, especially in someone with J nger s untouchable prestigeand access to Hitler, and skill with weapons From 1938 he was vaguely associated with plots against Hitler, though Clive James says he was never an active conspirator, he thought he was doing his duty to civilized values merely by despising Hitler The thought of killing him did not occur In 1939 he published an allegorical attack on Nazism, On the Marble Cliffs, which was suppressed In 1940 he rejoined the army, and was dismissed 1944 for his closeness to the ringleaders of the Stauffenberg plot He spent most of the war years in Occupied Paris, indulging his biblio and oenophilia, dining with Andr Gide and composing the diaries that in Chatwin s judgment combine acute observation and an anesthetized sensibility in the strangest literary production of the Second World War, stranger by far get this than anything by C line or Malaparte If that weren t enough to pique my interest AC and Chris Sastre have given me some idea of the strangeness of C line and Malaparte J nger s prewar notebooks of secret dissent and war diaries recur throughout James s Cultural Amnesia, as loci classici of the crisis of humanism When intellectuals conspire to undermine vulgar democracy in favour of a refined dream, it might seem unfair to condemn them for failing to foresee the subsequent nightmare And Moeller, though outstandingly qualified, was only one among many But there were too many that was the point Too many well read men combined to prepare the way for a pitiless hoodlum who despised them, and they even came to value him for being a hoodlum for lacking scruples, for being a drum of nature Among the revolutionary conservative intellectuals, J nger is the real tragic figure He saw the light, but too late In his notebooks he gradually de emphasized his call for conservative revolution led by men who had been transformed in their being by the experience of World War I In 1943, in Paris, he was told the news about the extermination camps, and finally reached the conclusion that he had been staving off since the collapse of the Weimar Republic he had helped to undermine one of the men whose being had been transformed by their experience of the Great War was Adolf Hitler The quality J nger valued most had turned out to be the only one he shared with the man he most despised This is probably the cheeriest war memoir ever While J nger occasionally remembers to throw in the the requisite oh the horrors of war comment, most of the time it is clear he is having a blast Based on his other hobbies travel, hunting, joining the French Foreign Legion, dangerous political conversation, taking all available drugs he seems to have quite the adrenaline junkie Kind of amazing that he lived to over a hundred Appearances can be deceiving this man is totally stealing your h This is probably the cheeriest war memoir ever While J nger occasionally remembers to throw in the the requisite oh the horrors of war comment, most of the time it is clear he is having a blast Based on his other hobbies travel, hunting, joining the French Foreign Legion, dangerous political conversation, taking all available drugs he seems to have quite the adrenaline junkie Kind of amazing that he lived to over a hundred Appearances can be deceiving this man is totally stealing your hash and LSD if you don t keep an eye on him And then possibly your car, which he may crash while trying to hunt mountain lions without a license I ve read so much on WW2 over the years, and seemed to have forgotten there was another major European war in the 20th century, of which I ve hardly read anything That simply had to change, and in reading this apocalyptic front line view of the Great war I will certainty have to read , maybe next time from a British or French perspective Translator Michael Hofmann in his introduction makes the case for Storm of Steel being one of the best accounts of World War I ever written, and for now I ve read so much on WW2 over the years, and seemed to have forgotten there was another major European war in the 20th century, of which I ve hardly read anything That simply had to change, and in reading this apocalyptic front line view of the Great war I will certainty have to read , maybe next time from a British or French perspective Translator Michael Hofmann in his introduction makes the case for Storm of Steel being one of the best accounts of World War I ever written, and for now until I ve readI d agree The first version of Storm of Steel appeared in 1920, and is an unflinching memoir of the four years Ernst J nger spent on the Western Front It reads very much like a journal told in a clear and spare prose, with J nger writing with great intensity of the hellish atmosphere of the world around him While not stinting on its horrors, he also found the experience of war exciting, even enjoyable, almost like a mystical adventure, so it s easy to see why the Nazis would have loved him, as I got the sense that every time he loaded a round into the chamber of his weapon he gotof a thrill from it than say getting his leg over Storm of Steel was simply a fascinating read, and a reminder that there are always individuals who are enamoured of war The book had little background, hardly touched on politics, home life, or love apart from comradeship , it s simply about what war is like for a soldier staring it right in the face Funny how everyone has heard of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, but hardly anyone recognizes that other major German language battlefield novel of the First World War, STORM OF STEEL, in German In Stahlgewittern 1920 Of course, ALL QUIET is resolutely pacifist while STORM is not it s an in your face battle story, not unlike Norman Mailer s breakthrough novel The Naked and the Dead twenty six years later It is relatively apolitical, unlike author Ernst J nger s later leanings in the late Funny how everyone has heard of ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, but hardly anyone recognizes that other major German language battlefield novel of the First World War, STORM OF STEEL, in German In Stahlgewittern 1920 Of course, ALL QUIET is resolutely pacifist while STORM is not it s an in your face battle story, not unlike Norman Mailer s breakthrough novel The Naked and the Dead twenty six years later It is relatively apolitical, unlike author Ernst J nger s later leanings in the late Twenties, when Germany s Weimar Republik was obviously struggling, he opined that he hated Democracy like the plague and remained an ardent Nationalist There is that to consider if latent political factors are enough to put you off On the other hand STORM OF STEEL is gripping, with only brief breathers from the emotional and physical brutality of war A plus for intermediate students of German is that, since the novel is short and not rife in Modernist technique in the way of, say, Thomas Mann s MAGIC MOUNTAIN, it makes a fairly accessible read in its original language It is worth noting that the real Ernst J nger must have made his peace with Democracy on some level, because he lived in the Federal Republic of Germany Western Germany until his death at age 102 Photos The author as a young man and in later years |Free ♲ Storm of Steel ♃ A memoir of astonishing power, savagery, and ashen lyricism, Storm of Steel illuminates not only the horrors but also the fascination of total war, seen through the eyes of an ordinary German soldier Young, tough, patriotic, but also disturbingly self aware, J nger exulted in the Great War, which he saw not just as a great national conflict, but importantly as a unique personal struggle Leading raiding parties, defending trenches against murderous British incursions, simply enduring as shells tore his comrades apart, J nger kept testing himself, braced for the death that will mark his failurePublished shortly after the war s end, Storm of Steel was a worldwide bestseller and can now be rediscovered through Michael Hofmann s brilliant new translation This has to be the best bit of WW1 writing I ve experienced so far I ve often maintained that the Great War was the last major conflict in which the combatants regarded the foe with a certain amount of respect and chivalrous conduct They were equals at arms, with neither side having an ungodly edge in technology, as we see today Junger was typical of young officers of the time, whether they wore the grey or khaki he was keen to fight, and did so energetically His aggressive nature can be de This has to be the best bit of WW1 writing I ve experienced so far I ve often maintained that the Great War was the last major conflict in which the combatants regarded the foe with a certain amount of respect and chivalrous conduct They were equals at arms, with neither side having an ungodly edge in technology, as we see today Junger was typical of young officers of the time, whether they wore the grey or khaki he was keen to fight, and did so energetically His aggressive nature can be deduced from the way he kitted himself out for battle P.168 I had got together some kit appropriate to the sort of work I meant to be doing across my chest, two sandbags, each containing four stick bombs, impact fuses on the left, delay on the right, in my right tunic pocket an 08 pistol on a long cord, in my right trouser pocket a little Mauser pistol, in my left tunic pocket five egg hand grenades, in the left trouser pocket luminous compass and whistle, in my belt spring hooks for pulling out the pins, plus bowie knife and wire cutters in my inside tunic pocket I carried a full wallet with my home address, in my right back pocket, a flat flask of cherry brandy Junger is not all business, however, and is quick to note humorous or ironical situations Many passages are tinged with a bit of sardonic humour I m sure his colleagues and underlings were somewhat chagrined to find Junger did not mind calling them by name, as in the case of this unfortunate fellowIn the platoon left of us, Sergeant Hock, the unfortunate rat catcher of Monchy, aimed to discharge a white flare, picked up the wrong flare, and instead sent up a red barrage light, which was taken up in all quarters Straight away our own artillery opened up, and it was a joy to behold One shell after another came yowling down out of the sky and showered the field ahead of us in a fountain of shards and sparks on impact A mixture of dust, stale gases and the reek of flung carcasses brewed up from the craters After this orgy of destruction, the shelling quickly flooded back to its previous levels One man s slip of the hand had got the whole titanic machinery of war rolling During his days in the trenches, Junger and his troops would face French, Indian, and Scots regiments at various times Prisoners were usually treated humanely, and often troops did not fire on stretcher bearers from the other side With all that amiable co operation going around, one wonders why they didn t just drop the guns and go for a beer Junger ponders that himself, in regarding a Brit soldier he had killed p.219Outside it lay my British soldier, littlethan a boy, who had been hit in the temple He lay there, looking quite relaxed I forced myself to look closely at him It wasn t a cae of you or me anyI often thought back on him andwith the passing of the years The state, which relieves us of our responsibility, cannot take away our remorse and we must exercise it Sorrow, regret, pursued me deep into my dreams I am happy to enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone, not only war buffs Junger is an excellent writer and this book is one I will read over and over again, it s just that good War means the destruction of the enemy without scruple and by any means War is the harshest of all trades, and the masters of it can only entertain humane feelings so long as they do no harm Ernst J nger was a born soldier neither risk averse nor foolhardy, able to command the loyalty of others and to follow orders without question, able to fight without malice and kill without scruple These are his captivating memoirs of his service in the First World War.The consensus of posterity regar War means the destruction of the enemy without scruple and by any means War is the harshest of all trades, and the masters of it can only entertain humane feelings so long as they do no harm Ernst J nger was a born soldier neither risk averse nor foolhardy, able to command the loyalty of others and to follow orders without question, able to fight without malice and kill without scruple These are his captivating memoirs of his service in the First World War.The consensus of posterity regarding this war is that it was bloody, tragic, and ultimately inconclusive the exemplar of a brutal, pointless war Erich Maria Remarque, who fought on the same side and on the same front as J nger albeit farbriefly writes of his experience with trauma and disgust Yet J nger s memoirs, equally as bloody as All Quiet on the Western Front, are strangely warm and cheery A born soldier, he felt right at home As regards the basic experiences of the war, J nger s memoirs cover all the bases bloody hand to hand combat, endless artillery shelling, taking cover in shell holes and scrambling to put on one s gas mask, swarms of flying shrapnel and bullets, and death forever prowling But out of this basic fabric of experiences J nger weaves a heroic and even jaunty tale, a battle narrative of gallantry and daring Each soldier, in J nger s archaizing eyes, is a knight locked in a gentlemanly joust with an enemy, motivated by duty and honor I often wondered whether this quaint way of viewing the war was some kind of subtle psychological defense mechanism, shutting out its horrors with a chivalrous fantasy but J nger seems to have carried this perspective with him before the fight even began In many ways J nger reminds me of Patrick Leigh Fermor Both war heroes, both adrenaline junkies, both of a seemingly inexhaustible vitality Leigh Fermor lived to 96, J nger to 104 and both obscenely well educated, these two authors tend to see life as a legend J nger s prose has none of Remarque s cinematographic immediacy By comparison his writing is highly stylized, like a Byzantine mosaic or Homeric verse Admittedly, this istrue of the first half than the second, which becomes quite thrilling In any case it takes a special kind of person to compare an artillery bombardment to a witch s cauldron, or to motivate oneself in battle by quoting a verse from Ariosto The ending of the book contains, in brief, some of J nger s thoughts on the significance of the war Clausewitz s famous aphorism, that war is politics by other means, seems to have been lost on J nger For him the war s value was not in accomplishing any concrete objective which was, in any case, foiled for Germany but in hardening the fighting men You might say that, for J nger, the war was valuable for its own sake The extreme circumstances of war roused in the soldiers an equally extreme dedication to an ideal beyond themselves, the ability to yield themselves completely to their Fatherland and he thought that future generations would look on the soldiers much as saints And so, strange as it may sound, I learned from these very four years of schooling in force and in all the fantastic extravagance of material warfare, that life has no depth of meaning except when it is pledged for an ideal, and that there are ideals in comparison with which the life of an individual and even of a people has no weight Personally I find this view disturbing, as I m sure many do The nationalistic dreams of Kaisers are nothing in comparison with even one life In any case I think history has amply proven J nger mistaken in just a few years, the very hardening anvil of war he praised led to another, evendeadly war under a regime which J nger himself despised And whatever we may think of the heroism displayed by individual soldiers, it is outweighed by the sheer horror of it all I also must say that I am incredulous that someone who lost so many friends and comrades and who himself narrowly escaped death, getting wounded 14 times could talk in such fanciful, romantic, and vague terms about the lessons of the war and again I wonder, was this some kind of defense mechanism In sum, this must be one of the oddest war memoirs ever published, equal parts exciting, off putting, and exacerbating For those interested in the First World War, certainly it is required reading This is an excellent and unusual World War I novel It s unusual in that most WWI fiction and memoires are anti war, dark and furious at the appalling human waste Ernst J nger, in contrast, had a grand time Well, that s a bit flip Storm of Steel is full of savagery, physical suffering, squalor, and an ultimate sense of frustration But the narrator also exults in war He delights in daredevil acts, charging the enemy, organizing his troops, and appreciating details of life in the rear J n This is an excellent and unusual World War I novel It s unusual in that most WWI fiction and memoires are anti war, dark and furious at the appalling human waste Ernst J nger, in contrast, had a grand time Well, that s a bit flip Storm of Steel is full of savagery, physical suffering, squalor, and an ultimate sense of frustration But the narrator also exults in war He delights in daredevil acts, charging the enemy, organizing his troops, and appreciating details of life in the rear J nger is repeatedly wounded 16 times for 20 punctures, he claims 314 5 , but keeps coming back forHe learns a great deal, grows as a person, and ultimately looks ahead to a non hideous future What a light, Nietzschean spirit.The plot is that of a war diary, following J nger from the struggle s outbreak in 1914 through the failure of the Central Powers in late 1918 We don t get details of grand strategy or the big picture instead, the text focuses on the immediate experience of life and death on the Western Front.The novel excels at this detail We watch troops deal with boredom, fighting off rats, coming up with nicknames for bad food We see minute aspects of billets, gear, and personal details There are few persistent characters, and none realized in any serious depth, but they create an impression of the armed forces around the narrator.The sensual details and psychological aspects are quite clear.Weak natures are prone to the atavistic impulse to destroy and it takes hold of the trench fighter in his desolate existence when any one appears above ground I have felt it myself only too often 219 I was in full array two sandbags in front of my chest, each with four stick bombs, the left hand one having instantaneous, the right hand with time fuses in the right hand pocket of my tunic I had an 08 revolver on a long cord, in my right trouser pocket a small Mauser pistol in my left tunic pocket five egg bombs in the left trouser pocket a phosphorescent compass and a policeman s whistle in my belt spring hooks for pulling out the bomb pins, a dagger, and wire cutters There was a pocket book in my breast pocket and my home address, and n the pocket of the back of my tunic a flat flask of cherry brandy 196 7 I believe I have found a comparison that exactly conveys what I, in common with all the rest who went through the war, experienced in situations like this It is as if one were tied tight to a post and threatened by a fellow swinging a sledge hammer Now the hammer is swung back for the blow, now it whirls forward, till, just missing your skull, it sends the splinters flying from the post once81 We can see certain famous historical details of the war through the narrator s eyes Gas is frequently used and very frightening Machine guns sweep fields Air power is unremarkable, and not idolized, as we hear in some accounts Artillery is the very worst, the god of war, utterly terrifying, and worse when experienced in the form of too frequent friendly fire Tanks rarely appear, and the one confrontation with some we see is pathetic There was a cluster of shell shot tanks quite close to the embankment, and I often went to look at them They bore names that were sometimes humorous, sometimes defiant, and sometimes affectionate, and they were camouflaged with paint but they were all in a pitiable plight The little cabin of ard plate, now shot to pieces, with its maze of pipes, rods, and wires, must have been an extremely uncomfortable crib during an attack, when the monsters, hoping to baffle the aim of our guns, took a tortuous course over the battlefield like gigantic helpless cockchafers I thoughtthan once of the men in these fiery furnaces 286 7 This reads like science fiction, when humans encounter artifacts of powerful aliens from another world or time When not describing the combat zone J nger reminds us of his excellent taste He reads Tristram Shandy during leave, criticizes or celebrates taste in furniture, analyzes paintings, and reflects on the human condition The war never degrades his sensibility.Again and again J nger celebrates the fighting prowess of his men We don t get a sense of decay and social breakdown as we find in some French, Russian, and British accounts No, Storm s German soldiers are infused with patriotism, well drilled, and fierce in battle right through the end.What issublime than to face death at the head of a hundred men Such a one will never find obedience fail him, for courage runs through the ranks like wine 27 Prussian military traditions are singled out for praise Again, this is so different from other WWI accounts, which emphasize military futility and decay.Horror and gore are present throughout, as befits the subject O ur gunner, the volunteer Motullo, was killed by a shot through the head Though his brain fell over his face to his chin, his mind was still clear when we took him to the nearest dugout 231 Ultimately Storm of Steel lauds the generation of German fighters as having successfully passed through the ultimate test The final chapter describes not the fall of the German empire in revolution, humiliation, and economic ruin, but points to new careers for veterans, who seem likely to triumph in whatever they do This is an uplifting ending again, how strange for a WWI novel I recommend this for anyone interested in the history, or in memoires autobiographical fiction about experiences of enormous stress Its non tragic perspective is rare.Again the carnival of carnage beckoned 308 I m reading the 1929 English language translation I don t know how different subsequent versions are with the exception of American Willa Cather s strange One of Ours 1923 , where our hero finds purpose and satisfaction in the trenches The only bad part about the war is that the Treaty of Versailles isn t as good as it could have been Yes, an odd book