Tamara's Reviews > Storm of Steel

Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger
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Jul 11, 2011

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bookshelves: schoolreads-college, vacationreads, historyreads, reviewedreads
Read from May 15 to July 04, 2011

This is one of those books I never thought I'd actually enjoy. As a sworn pacifist, I did not expect to find a war book - written by a German, no less! - appealing.

But Junger's battlefield is not the typical setting about which one reads in history books. It is a place where Death dances (his capitalisation) and guns speak. Only the soldiers are the enemies, as he befriends and admires the civilian citizens of the nations he is fighting. Cities in which he fought and which he destroyed in the heat of warfare are more than fond memories, they are places to which to return and mourn the rubble. In his universe, amidst the roar of gunfire and the confusion of battle, luck and curiosity win above all else.

Perhaps it was the translation, but there was such a lyricality to the language used by Junger that, far from being a jarring contrast to the horrific acts described, worked in tandem with them to paint a simultaneous picture of life/death, present/memory, present/future, beauty/destruction, ephemerality/endurance, and animosity/camaraderie. He uses words I had never heard before - beautiful words, like "marmoreally" - to describe the scenes of death spread out before him.

On the other hand, Junger makes no apologies for what he is doing. Far from perfect and indestructible, he is permeable (he ends the war with no less than twenty bullet holes) and, as is illustrated time and again, decidedly human. At varying times, he is brutally deadly, frightfully unmerciful, scathingly condescending, and alarmingly sadistic. Yet once those moments pass, he reveals himself as kind, gentle, caring, loving, contemplative, selfless, and - in contrast - surprisingly merciful. These changes of heart and narration are not only compelling but utterly believable, and part of what makes the book so delightful to read.

However, I am fairly certain I will not be reading it again. There are a few images that will remain with me well beyond today, and which do not need to be refreshed by a second reading.

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Reading Progress

05/18/2011 page 70
06/26/2011 page 184
64.0% ""It was an odd thing that our apparently confused actions in the depths of the night had had such pronounced and public consequences.""
06/27/2011 page 200
69.0% ""For him the whole thing had been a plan; for us an intensely experienced reality.""
06/27/2011 page 207
72.0% "Just read "Dragon Alley" as "Diagon Alley." I'm glad by brain, even subconsciously, knows what's important."
06/28/2011 page 230
80.0% ""For the last time, watches were synchronised, and then we all shook hands and went our separate ways.""
06/28/2011 page 231
80.0% ""The moment before engagement was a unforgettable picture....The decisive battle, the last charge, was here. Here the fates of nations would be decided, what was at stake was the future of the world. I sensed the weight of the hour, and I think everyone felt the individual in them dissolve, and fear depart.""
07/03/2011 page 258
90.0% ""The Great Battle was a turning-point for me, and not merely because from then on I thought it possible that we might actually lose the war.""
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