Nat's Reviews > Blasting and Bombardiering

Blasting and Bombardiering by Wyndham Lewis
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Sep 03, 08

really liked it
Read in September, 2008

Wyndham Lewis was a painter, novelist and pamphleteer (before reading this I was most familiar with the catchy typography and pink covers of his BLAST manifestoes), and served in the British artillery. Lewis's opinions about the war and his fellow soldiers are much more recognizable than, say, Ernst Jünger's or Robert Graves's. By that I mean he's he's happy to withdraw from the front lines to a cushy job painting Canadian artillery in a quiet part of the front, and he describes some of his fellow officers more or less as lunatics.

This memoir was written just before the beginning of the second World War, and Lewis's cultural reflections are strikingly pessimistic. He expresses the view that every time there is a war, artistic production necessarily ceases, and when it resumes after the conclusion of fighting, "we take [the arts] back up again...with less assurance and less genius" (263). That's meant as some kind of explanation of his belief that "something has occurred in the world that has long ago caused the greatest creations to stop being born. No more will come" (261).

The most enjoyable section of the book is Lewis's description of his first meetings with James Joyce, TS Eliot, and Ezra Pound (including walking into an apartment when Ezra Pound and Hemingway are boxing each other).

To give a sense of Lewis's unrelenting irony, even when describing his friends, I'll just quote the following passage, which concerns an art collector who was fond of Lewis's paintings:

"Sir William Rothenstein was until last year principal of the South Kensington Schools and in that capacity irradiated his intelligence over the back areas of England, and many a poor fellow now can draw a cow--or, to be more accurate, teach another fellow how to draw a cow--who otherwise would have remained completely unresponsive to the presence of that quadruped" (220).

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