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ELT 42 : 4 1999 soldiering for "The French Poodle" (1916). What constitutes "war experiences "? Aldington's story alone implies that there must have been all the difference in the world between Stein's driving behind the lines and Aldington 's first-hand experience of fighting in front of them. Yet even Aldington 's story commences on the day the war is over. If we are to be able to judge the idea of Two Nations prominent in studies of war literature —Those Who Had Been There and Those Who Had Not—we need evidence from both kinds of writers. To make Machen's fable the only work to deal directly with the military zone in wartime loads the dice. Although no anthology can include everything relevant, I do find it remarkable that this one does not include stories by, say, Liam O'Flaherty or James Hanley, which draw directly on first-hand battle experience, or by Ellen la Motte or Mary Borden—women nursing at the battlefront rather than thirty miles behind it. The main aim of the anthology is stated as being to illustrate "the breadth of the cultural impact of the war"—but how is this to be achieved with a random arrangement of stories written in English by an intellectual elite, most of whom had privileged backgrounds and/or university education? The purpose seems in fact to be to divert our gaze away from the battlefields of 1914-1918. The resultant selection, both authors and tales scattered across time and space, is bewilderingly disconnected . A subtitle such as "The Great War through the imagination of non-combatants" would have given readers a more accurate indication of the contents—provided Aldington's tale had been omitted. Then the introduction might have been more straightforward in its challenge to our inherited cultural emphasis on the trench-poets, which perhaps Tate regards as blinkered? Instead, by sleight of hand, Tate has tried to demonstrate a lack of distinction between male and female responses to the war. In the process, whatever may have been the Great War's "cultural impact"—the fracturing of history or the forging of modern consciousness —has slipped through her fingers. Claire Tylee __________________ Brunei University Saki Stories "Saki." Tobermory and other stories. Martin Stephen, intro. London and New York: Phoenix, 1998. 240 pp. Paper £3.99 NOT LONGAGO readers of the London Daily Telegraph were invited to write in with a list of their favourite Saki stories. The response 446 BOOK REVIEWS was overwhelming. Hundreds of fans, having sifted through Saki's 141 published tales, nominated both classics like "Tobermory" and "Sredni Vashtar" and obscure delights like "Quail Seed" and "The Gala Programme ." Saki, who admired Darwin and whose stories dramatize intense struggles between competing species, would probably have approved of this method of selection. But it also points to an interesting aspect of his historical reception. When these kinds of books are put together , it is customary to invite a respected academic to take responsibility for the editing process. Here, it was deemed appropriate to go over the heads of literary critics and appeal directly to the British public. Partly this is because Saki does have such mass appeal. But partly, too, it is because academia has basically ignored his legacy. The facts are these. Apart from a biography by A. J. Langguth in 1981 and a few profile-raising essays by famous writers and critics (Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, John Carey), there has been no major academic endeavour to account for Saki's success. And it's plain to see why. For a start, Saki is "easy." There's not much to teach or explain: a cat learns to speak, a polecat kills an aunt—end of story. Secondly, Saki is extremely funny. Unlike a "great" writer in the Leavisite mould, Saki has no "moral seriousness" whatsoever; he has no mission and no message. Finally, in a highly politicized academic environment, Saki—as a dead white European male—must come at the bottom of the list in any crusade for reevaluation . "So what?" the Saki fan might say. "Who needs academics anyway?" But it's a shame, because there's a lot that scholarship...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 446-449
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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