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Under Fire; The Story of a Squad

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  655 ratings  ·  60 reviews
Excerpt: front. "I'll bet a compass on it," says Farfadet. "And I, my bits of tinder." "I," says Tirloir, "I'll bet a teeny whistle that my wife sent me when she said, 'If you're wounded in the battle you must whistle, so that your comrades will come and save your life.'" We laugh at the artless words. Tulacque intervenes, and says indulgently to Tiloir, "They don't ...more
Paperback, 108 pages
Published August 23rd 2012 by (first published 1916)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”Suddenly a fearful explosion falls on us. I tremble to my skull; a metallic reverberation fills my head; a scorching and suffocating smell of sulphur pierces my nostrils. The earth has opened in front of me. I feel myself lifted and hurled aside—doubled up, choked, and half blinded by this lightning and thunder. But still my recollection is clear; and in that moment when I looked wildly and desperately for my comrade-in-arms, I saw his body go up, erect and black, both his arms outstretched to ...more
In Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, the central character, having been wounded on the Italian Front, escapes from the army and takes refuge in a hotel in the Alps. While there he meets an old acquaintance who interrogates him on the subject of war literature:

‘What have you been reading?’
‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘I'm afraid I am very dull.’
‘No. But you should read.’
‘What is there written in war-time?’
‘There is Le Feu by a Frenchman, Barbusse.’
[…] ‘Those books were at the hospital.’
‘Then you have been r
Brian Robbins
Under Fire

This is a remarkable book.

Barbusse makes vivid use of his own experiences as a soldier during the First World War, to bring alive the day-to-day existence of the rank and file men who served in the trenches. The subtitle “The Story of a Squad” & the dedication: “To the Memory of the Comrades who Fell by My Side at Crouy & on Hill 119”, indicate where his focus and his loyalties lie.

The content ranges widely across the troops experiences, from the boredom and trivialities of muc
I cannot get my hands on enough material from the Inter-War Period. I admit that I have this problem. I love poilus.

This book has an interesting history of being dragged from fiction to non-fiction and back again. It was originally published in serial form in 1916, making it one of the only works ABOUT World War I to come out before the war itself was ended. Barbusse had at that time been wounded, pulled from the front and relegated to a job in the War Office; he was arguably able to depict more
This book is an essential, but too often ignored, read for anyone interested in World War I, the literature of that period, or war lit in general. As a piece of literature it was highly significant. Published in 1916, it was one of the first works to openly criticise the war and was a major influence on Siegfried Sassoon.
It tells the story of a group of ordinary French soldiers, drawing deeply on Barbusse's own experiences in the trenches. The structure is not a complete narrative, but instead
sun surfer
Realistic and horrific account of a French WWI soldier and his squad in the trenches, written by a French WWI soldier from the trenches and published during the war. Told in a vignette style that verges on non-fiction memoir, the authentic insight into camp life and the soldiers’ stories and hopes were captivating but the battlefield sections were too graphic for me. Nevertheless, it’s an important novel.
This book is one of the most graphic descriptions of the horror of The Great War that I have ever read.

I think it is worth pointing out that Barbusse also focuses on class divisions. Thus we have the "trench tourists" who are little more than curiosity seekers and those who have managed to obtain safe positions behind the lines. Both types arouse the indignation of the ordinary soldier. Then there is the contrast between the conditions of the trench-solkdiers as it is reported at home and as it
Wow. I am not sure I have ever read a book which brings to life the realities, both the horrors and the banalities of trench warfare in WWI as well or as beautifully as this one. I read it in English translation, and some of the phrases and images are just heartstoppingly lovely. I would like to tackle the French version, although there is a lot of period slang. Every now and then, you come across a phrase of terrible irony, as when the soldiers muse that the fields have been shelled for weeks a ...more
Semi-autobiographical and written from the notes Barbusse took while he was fighting in World War I, Under Fire is a boots-on-the-ground view of the war. And as even a glancing knowledge of war, and this war in particular, will tell you: it's not pretty. That doesn't mean that the writing can't be pretty, however. Within the first few pages of this book I'd made a note that said, "It's like a novel of Wilfred Owen poetry." I consider that high praise. Just like Owen, Barbusse chooses and layers ...more
Lucie Janků
Woow, this was pretty surprising! I'm not much into war literature, I just read it because I bought the book once in a sale for a ridiculous price. But now, after I finished, I'm just surprised and stunned. Let's start with the artistic side. It's written so well, the language is readable (unlike many other "classic authors") and descriptive part is so skilfully balanced with the story part. And about the story part - unbelievable. Everyone should read this at least once in their lives. These ar ...more
As I read this book, particularly the long and agonising section describing what it was like to be under fire, I couldn't help thinking about the early editors who found it necessary to tone down the swearwords, apparently under the impression that these would be more shocking than the great obscenity of the war itself.

My only disappointment with this book was the final chapter, which jarred with me. It didn't ring true after the stunning realism of the rest of the book.

Definitely a must read fo
Juli Rahel
Henri Barbusse was half French, half British and born in 1873. Compared to the other authors discussed up to now, he was quite old when he signed up for the French army at the age of 41. Although he was injured often, he served for 15 months until he was placed into a clerical position. He published Under Fire (Le Feu in the original French) in 1916, just after the end of the First World War, in which he describes his experiences fighting. Similarly to the other works, it is very harsh and natur ...more
I am generally very wary of patois, créole and other celebration of idiolectic regionalism, as it can be found in French naturalist and late-romantic fiction; There is no doubt a part of ideology in that rejection, and a part of ignorance too, but in my experience vernacular dialogues generally tend to make up for uneventful conversation with exotic terminology. So when I engaged the six hundred pages of Barbusse’s “Le Feu” to find that the narrator (pretty much the only character who could be e ...more
Soobie's still hurting like the first day
Ho letto Il fuoco come parte integrante della mia lista di libri dedicati alla guerra e scritti da autori che vi hanno effettivamente partecipato. Non sono autori che glorificano la guerra, ma rendono onore alla gente che ha dovuto parteciparvi. Ciò che mi affascina di più di questi libri è come siano in grado di dimostrare che gli uomini possono sopravvivere all'inferno per poterlo raccontare.

Gli altri libri della lista sono.
1. Im Westen nichts Neues:
2. Un anno sull'altipiano:
3. Il tenente St
Starting out slowly, Barbusse builds up a picture of the trenches of WWI that focuses on the dreary monotony, lice, mud, discomfort and bad food. This makes the eventual climatic scenes of dismembered and drowned bodies, scattered on a pointless killing field that may not be strategically significant (not that the rank and file would know) compelling, although the somewhat improbably literary anti-war soliloquies that close the book are more philosophical than reportorial.
The writing is often sp
Make sure your french is up to it before starting. Loved (and sweated all along) how Barbusse makes the soldiers so alive through their talk. A grittier 'All quiet in the western front' full of trench jargon and patois.
Carlos Pérez Casas
La obra narra el día a día de una escuadra francesa en el año 1916. Pese a estar narrado en primera persona, apelando mucho al uso del plural como un intento de englobar a los compañeros de trinchera, no parece tener ningún protagonista claro, y los personajes son simples hombres que se limitan a sobrevivir ante el desarrollo de unos acontecimientos que no pueden controlar. Es la narrativa de la pasividad, limitarse a padecer los altibajos de la guerra con la esperanza de sobrevivir al final de ...more
A great book on the combat experiences in the trenches of a squad of French infantrymen (pollution) in WW1. Based on his diary, Barbusse chronicles the lives of his squad as they endure daily life in the trenches, trips home, and in the latter part of the book periods of extreme combat. The story is structured as a novel of sorts and divided up by chapters. The timeline is not always linear, however, and several chapters are devoted to particular topics or experiences. The book is well written a ...more
Brendan Hodge
Henri Barbusse's war novel Under Fire war written while the Great War was still raging. Barbusse had spend 1914-1915 in the trenches and was then wounded enough to be assigned a desk job. A prolific writer before the war, he wrote this novel, which provides a French enlisted man's view of the war, during 1915-1916 and it became an immediate best seller in France and (in translation) in England and America. Soldiers recommended it as a realistic portrayal of the war. This new translation out from ...more
Found this a bit difficult to get into at first because doesn't really read like a novel, more of a soldier's account, but once accustomed to the style found it brilliant. First published in 1916, very 'straight', unemotional/journalistic portrayal of the absolute horrors and appalling conditions endured by all those men in the first world war. Hard to think about my grandfathers (and everyone else's grandfathers or great grandfathers) experiencing that. I'm amazed that any of them managed to le ...more
This was first published in 1917, during the First World War. Henri Barbusse was a soldier and served in the Front line, although he had been invalided out and was an administrator when he wrote this novel. It has the raw feel of experience and includes an excellent first-hand description of a battle (a French attack which is a success in military terms, but at a cost and ultimately of little value).
He mainly recounts the day to day experiences of a group of soldiers, in the line and out of it.
Apr 03, 2014 David rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone who just wants to read all WWI fiction
Did not read this edition --read a much older version. Full title was "Under Fire: The Story of A Squad."

Under Fire is said to be the first novel to come from WWi -- published in French in 1916, in English in 1917. Clearly semi-autobiographical. I didn't like the style much; it is very hard to describe. Very many names flow through, sometimes hard to distinguish the characters. Perhaps the style suggests the chaos of war. Anyway, the horror of it all comes through.
Riveting account of life in the trenches for the ordinary French soldier in WWI. No gruesome detail is spared from the reader, nor the physical and mental energy required just to make it through a day. The author's small band of brothers do little more than exist, but their individual characters come out well in the writing. Remarkably, it was published actually during the war in 1916, which perhaps explains why Barbusse's invective is directed less against the bungling generals that hindsight m ...more
Une très bonne surprise.

Un livre certes long mais très intéressant pour se faire une idée de la vie dans les tranchées.
Un témoignage à la fois poignant de réalisme et d'authenticité.
Le lecteur n'est pas épargné par les horreurs de la guerre.

Ouvrage que je recommande !
Jeff Lacy
Having read a number of memoirs and novels involving WWI, UNDER FIRE is one of the best due to the excellent writing, that viscerally brings the reader into the dirty, smelly scenes, the exhaustion of the troops. It's one of my favorites of this genre and I highly recommend.
Strålende bog. Forsøg på dokumentarisk stil. Forfatterstemmen træder igennem som en, der lægger vægt på sammenligninger og på et "sammenblandingsperspektiv", altså hvor mennesker ikke anskues som øer, men som afhængige og forbundne. Meget fint, at perspektivet ikke er kynisk hele tiden, men derimod lægges der mærke til "menneskene" eller "det fine" hos flere mennesker. Også dem, der beskrives som værende ude i rent drømmmeriske, virkelighedsfjerne projekter.

Jeg havde ofte en fornemmelse af at h
- J'sais allumer le feu, mais j'sais pas l'rallumer quand il est éteint, déclare Poitron.
- Ballot! dit Poilpot, si tu sais l'allumer, tu sais l'rallumer, vu qu'si tu l'allumes, c'est qu'il a été éteint, et tu peux dire que tu l'rallumes quand tu l'allumes.

Il regarde ce qu'il vient de rêver.
The first novel to come out of the war was Under Fire by Henri Barbusse. It is not the only book written from first-hand experience, but it is the only one to be written while those experiences were still raw. The somewhat stilted dialogue in the translated version flows better in French.

This is my review of the translated version:
The dialogue is better in the original, but the translation of the descriptive sections is good.
A.L. Sowards
Oct 17, 2014 A.L. Sowards marked it as skimmed-or-read-portions-of  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi-fiction
The first third gets 2 stars. Maybe the last two-thirds are better, but I'm not spending the time to find out.
Candy Hudziak
This book had too many characters and my edition had some helpful footnotes but not enough, so that I had to parse meaning from the context and not always successfully. Having said that, I enjoyed this book a good deal and would recommend it.
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Henri Barbusse (May 17, 1873, Asnières-sur-Seine—August 30, 1935, Moscow) was a French novelist and a member of the French Communist Party.

The son of a French father and an English mother, Barbusse was born in Asnières-sur-Seine, France in 1873. Although he grew up in a small town, he left for Paris in 1889 at age 16. In 1914, at the age of 41, he enlisted in the French Army and served against Ger
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“Déjà, le mois de septembre, lendemain d'août et veille d'octobre et qui est par sa situation le plus émouvant des mois parsème les beaux jours de quelques fins avertissements. Déjà, on comprend ces feuilles mortes qui courent sur les pierres plates comme une bande de moineaux.” 3 likes
“These are not soldiers, these are men. They are notadventurers or warriors, designed for human butchery - as butchers or cattle. They are the ploughmen or workers that one recognizes even in their uniforms. They are uprooted civilians. They are ready, waiting for the signal for death or murder, but when you examine their faces between the vertical ranks of bayonets, they are nothing but men.” 1 likes
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