Friday, February 17, 2012

Steven Pinker, Adam Gopnick & WWI

I found this article by Adam Gopnick in the New Yorker from several years ago while reading Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. About Pinker's book: more to come, but let me say now that it is terrific. I was enamoured (and still am) with Mann's 1493, but this book is right up there with it. (What a great time for non-fiction readers!). Anyway, Pinker has some interesting discussion of war & IR, and this is where I found the Gopnick article.

Gopnick's article reviews several new books at that time about WWI (aka "The Great War"). I've read the Fromkin and have the Stevenson. Anyway, the essay is quite thoughtful and through. The topic continues to fascinate me. How did Europe descend from the belle epoch to hell in such a short time? Why, why, why? For those of you who watch "Downton Abbey", you may get a sense of it, or if, like Iowa Guru & me, you're "Upstairs, Downstairs" groupies, you get a sense. Through films, poems, novels: the horror and senselessness (seemingly, anyway), and destruction of it all always come through. WWII racked up worse numbers, but WWI, I think, damaged the collective psyche--and individual psyches--more.

This review article (rather lengthy) is a fine gateway into the issues of WWI and cites some fine scholarship on a maddeningly elusive and immense topic. With the 100th anniversary looming and some fine publications recently released, I think we'll learn more and more about this cataclysmic event--and perhaps understand it with less certainty.