This slim novel, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale, is one of the best pieces I’ve ever read about war. Anthime, his friends and his brother all kind of drift into World War I, a war everyone seems to expect will only last two weeks. (Why are there so many instances in history where people think wars will be short? How many actually have been?) But they learn. Some learn and don’t return. Others do and return, but are not the same.
Echenoz’s writing is detached, almost journalistic. I wonder how it reads in the original. So when he does give a detail, it has the effect, to borrow from one pretty funny passage of “a dot of contrasting color [that] intensifies a monochrome” (86).