So sick and croaky Mr. Stacey, reading aloud, Timothy Findley’s The Wars, to his class called in a pitch hitter. Mr. Smith, came off the bench to read-aloud the Canadian author’s gripping tale of World War I, that illustrates the anguish of war and soldiering better than any non-fiction reference book or textbook could. Listening to Findley’s grotesque narrative is a sobering exercise for the student listening as it is for teacher storyteller! It takes a courageous and master educator to combine the most powerful content with the necessary context. Our Mr. Stacey can certainly do that magic trick and his teacher-librarian colleague doesn’t mind being cut in half. 😉 The Wars is an amazing novel and Timothy Findley is a very skilled author worth a read. Try The Pilgrim for a literary change of pace.
Sixty years after the armistice, the horrors of the First World War were still spurring antiwar literature, one of the most compelling of which is Timothy Findley’s The Wars. Slim and elliptical, but told with a level-headed, lyrical clarity, The Wars traces the atrocities and absurdities of war through the journey of a young Canadian officer through trenches in which barbarism and civilization exist side by side.(Goodreads)
5 of 5
In 1915 Robert Ross, a young Canadian, enlists as an officer and begins a geographic and psychological journey through army training, troopship life, the slaughter at Ypres, a love affair in England, and the devastation of Belgium…. Stylistically complex. Disturbing. …The madness of war, WW I variety and Equus-style–in an evocative but heavy-handedly contrived patchwork of lyrical-deadpan narrative and first-person “transcripts.” From the detached viewpoint of an unnamed researcher, Canadian Findley reconstructs the horror-legend of young, handsome, animal-loving Robert Ross–a Toronto lieutenant who goes to war already guilty (he blames himself for the recent death of his hydrocephalic sister), with much more guilt and death in store: on the ship to Europe, he has to shoot, clumsily, a sick horse (just as his neurotic mother ordered him to kill his dead sister’s rabbits); in England, he sits endlessly by the bedside of a dying comrade; at Ypres, he survives being swallowed up in chlorine-drenched mud only to witness the unbelievable slaughter. Recovering back in Britain, he has a brief encounter (sex=violence) with a titled floozy who’s in love with a British war hero–a hero doubly debased because Robert saw him being buggered back home in an Alberta whorehouse and because he ends up armless and a failed suicide. Though there are scenes of uncluttered power–a platoon survives gassing by covering their faces in cloth doused with their own urine–Findley is far too transparent as he accumulates and interconnects Robert’s inner and outer horrors, not to mention the symbolic appearances of birds, rabbits, hedgehogs, and other innocent creatures. And this would-be mythmaking verges on parody when Robert, on the front again, is gang-raped by fellow officers in a bathhouse and then goes into his legendary freak-out: shooting and liberating horses, killing superior officers. Hero? Madman? A suspiciously familiar question, especially in equine company–and only one of the see-through pretensions that keep Findley’s obvious talents from coming together in this uncertain blend of case history, war story, and allegory. (Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1978) (Novelist)