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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book review: Unhappy Far-Off Things by Lord Dunsany

Unhappy Far-Off ThingsUnhappy Far-Off Things by Lord Dunsany

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lord Dunsany is best known for his fantasy, which was an inspiration to many authors such as H.P. Lovecraft. In this slim volume, however, Dunsany dwells on the horror of the First World War. Unlike most war memoirs he speaks very little of himself or even of the fighting. Instead we are treated to the grim spectacle of the wreckage behind the lines.

Dunsany is known for a poetic style that has sadly gone out of fashion, and in this book he is at his most poetic. He ponders the destroyed French villages and the few surviving remnants of happier times the way a Georgian or Victorian traveller would have described the ruins of Greece. You get the sense that Dunsany was very much aware that an age had passed and was looking back with longing at a simpler time.

The original edition runs only 84 pages and includes a sonnet and twelve vignettes. I could have read it in a single sitting but instead savored it over two weeks. The writing is so concise yet so eloquant that it's worth taking some time over. Dunsany proved that he should be counted along with Wilfred Owen and Ernst Junger as one of the Great War's greatest writers.

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