[First World War: Childhood, Youth, and Literature (Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe, England, Belgium, and France)]
Ed. by Hans-Heino Ewers. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition, 2016. 356 pages.
This volume—marking the centenary of WWI—unites scholarly essays in German and English on juvenile war literature, including picture books about the First World War and children’s books published between 1914 and 1918 in all involved countries, as well as later and contemporary young adult novels about the war. The contributions focus on the different ways of representing WWI in European literature for children, on the possible impact of these representations, and on the largely unexplored field of information and media culture of children and adolescents in times of war. Most of the eighteen contributions are based on talks given at the international conference “1914/2014 – World War I, Childhood and Youth in Times of War, Literature, Remembrance,” held September 10-12, 2014 at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
In the introduction, “German and Austrian War Literature for Children and Young Adults in WWI in Current Research and Remembrance Culture,” the editor, Hans-Heino Ewers, offers a comprehensive overview over seminal research going back to the 1970s, including comparative and lesser-known studies. Five contributions from Germany look at childhood at times of war, focusing on wartime sixth-formers (Hans-Heino Ewers), German-language war picture books 1914-1918 (Bernd Dolle-Weinkauff), the subjective experience of war based on “Diaries of Jo Mihaly and Ernst Buchner” (Andrew Donsons), and on the international reception of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (Thomas F. Schneider).
Christa Hämmerle’s essay “On the School Front: State Controlled Childhoods in WWI in Austria-Hungary” illustrates how the strategy of total warfare deeply affected the living conditions of children, instrumentalizing and victimizing them. In “World War and Children’s Literature in Austria,” Friedrich C. Heller analyses how books for children were used as propaganda instruments to spread war ideology. Ernst Seibert presents selected texts by Austrian authors Marie von Ebner Eschenbach, Franz Molnar, Felix Salten, Franz Karl Ginzkey, A. Th. Sonnleitner, and Annelies Umlauf-Lamatsch in “Identity Profiles of Classic Authors of Austrian [End Page 59] Children’s Literature in the First Third of the 20th Century.”
Two contributions add an Eastern European perspective: Frank M. Schuster’s “War Experiences of Young Eastern European Female Jews – Documented in two Diaries” and Pawel Zimniak’s “Vanished State: The Experience of WWI in Polish Literature 1914-1919.” Schuster presents and analyses Jewish fates based on the diaries of Chane Kahan and Marta Müller.
Anja Tschörtner‘s “‘I want to be an munitionette!’ – The Depiction of Young Women’s War Work in British and German Popular Fiction for Girls in the First Word War” shows how German books for girls, such as Jüngferchen Feldgrau by Luise Glass, also enjoyed popularity among British girl readers. Michael Paris’s “Boy of my Heart: The Death of Roland Leighton” studies works written by family members of young soldiers at the front, which reveal a critical view of the war. In “The First World War Becomes History: Strategies of War Remembrance in 1920s British School Novels,” Dorothea Flothow demonstrates how British school novels reflect and remember the war.
Fiction for children and young adults in France, Belgium, and England, as well as Canada and Australia, illustrates the importance of the First World War for the children’s literature production of these countries. The five essays from Belgium and France make an important contribution to a critical revision of topics, such as the representation of WWI in Flemish children’s books (Jan Van Coillies) and in contemporary French children’s literature (Daniel Delbrassines) or the gender-conscious analysis of war literature (Veronique Leonard-Rogues). They offer important insights into the history and changing reception of the specific children’s literature of the respective countries.