end of the 1920s, very few were widely available.2
The publication of soldiers’ memoirs followed a very different pattern.
Very few had been produced during the war itself,3 but the late 1920s
and early 1930s saw an outpouring of powerful and moving memoirs,
which were produced in large numbers and were widely read. Among
them were Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War, SiegfriedSassoon’s
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on
the Western Front, and Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That.4 Soon
after the publication of the earliest soldier
’s Progress.1 The romantic, narrative trope involved the testing
of a (male) hero, through the ‘ordeal’ of his experience. If he could
withstand this test, he would be transformed through ‘apotheosis’ – a
process that mirrored religious ideas of transcendence. The hero was,
therefore, not just courageous, but also saintly: morally and spiritually pure. For the young men of the war generation, combat was their
ordeal; surviving it with ‘honour’ would result in self-transformation.
Such ‘myths’ were exploded, after the war, by writers such as Siegfried
Balance, malleability and anthropology: historical contexts
Expedition to the Torres Strait; he later did ethnographic work in India and the Solomon Islands.
It is as psychiatrist to First World War poet SiegfriedSassoon that Rivers is best known, and Rivers's evidence to the War Office Committee of Enquiry into ‘Shell-Shock’ shows how his work is explicitly concerned with adaptation, specifically with the effects of being unable to adapt to circumstances. He argues that ‘Every animal has a natural reaction to danger … and man's is manipulation of such a kind as to get him out
to destruction. It was also an act of feminism. In her later memoir,
Testament of Experience, Brittain described how she had read the
war memoirs of Robert Graves, Richard Aldington, Erich Maria
Remarque, Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Blunden, and SiegfriedSassoon, and wondered: ‘Why should these young men have the war
to themselves?’.41 Women, too, had entered war with high ideals, suffered disillusionment, and then somehow found the courage to go on.
Although Testament of Youth was written primarily in memory of the
men Brittain had lost – her fiancé