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One Man's Initiation: 1917
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One Man's Initiation: 1917

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  477 ratings  ·  76 reviews
As the "Great War" inspired much great poetry, including that of Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves, so did it inspire compelling prose. John Dos Passos volunteered to drive an ambulance in France during the First World War. The brutality of his experiences turned him against not only war, but capitalism and inspired him to write One Man's Initiation: 1917.
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published December 1st 2006 by Aegypan (first published 1920)
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Libby Anti-war, showing the horrors of gassing that went on during WWI, as well as acknowledging the relationships of all people despite their nationality.
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3.33  · 
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 ·  477 ratings  ·  76 reviews

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Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I hadn't heard of John Dos Passos until I started reading about expatriate writers in 1920s Paris. Like Ernest Hemingway, Dos Passos served as a volunteer ambulance driver in World War I. Whereas Hemingway’s experiences during the war helped develop his macho persona, Dos Passos’ exposure to the brutality of war politicised him. In the late 1920s he went to Russia to study socialism and in 1935 was involved with the US Communist Party-sponsored First Americans Writers Congress.

However, Dos Pass
Jul 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: france, audible, bio, hf, alt, ww1
This is a semi-autobiographical novella. The American author is writing of his own experiences as a volunteer ambulance driver in France during the First World War in 1917. The writing is disjointed, a scathing commentary of war. It covers disparate events; there is little continuity to the story. Each short chapter depicts different scenes of war, the trip over the Atlantic, days in Paris and "the French girls", a didactic discussion one night among Frenchmen and Americans - an anarchist, a tal ...more
Sep 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Socialist war veterans, shell-shocked ambulance drivers
This is one of those anti-war classics that emerged from the Great War, with boys marching off singing patriotic songs about whipping the Huns, and discovering war as it was to be fought in the 20th century: trenches, machine guns, grenades, endless shelling, poison gas.

It was probably very powerful in its day. It still is a powerful and harrowing description of war, but the narrative is a sadly familiar one. If you want to read another story about how horrible war is, this is another story abou
Jun 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, fiction
One thing I noticed while reading John Dos Passos's "One Man's Initiation: 1917" is how much I know about World War 2. And how much I know about Vietnam. Even about the Korean War.

All I know about World War I has come from fiction wherein it's treated like a character, like a woman who is to be pursued, or from whose cruel rejection you must recover. In "The Beautiful and The Damned," F. Scott Fitzgerald's doppelganger, Anthony Patch, is disappointed when he misses out on going to the front to s
When meandering through this novella, I found myself wondering if it was worth reading. And meandering is likely the best word to be using since the novella is broken down into smaller segments / scenes. The first half was slow and kind of dull, but well written to the extent that small contained scenes can be. By the halfway point, and slightly beyond, I found myself still questioning the merit of the novel. Then boom – the philosophical discussion on war (or rather anti-war) hits. And it’s bot ...more
This novella about an American ambulance driver in World War I was a good remembrance for Veterans Day (although I didn't get to it until later). As with most WWI stories, it is gritty and heartwrenching. I find that is even more affecting in audiobook form than in the written word, so it took me a while to make it through this despite its short length.

As for the narration, it was neither great nor terrible. A tad on the slow side but not so much as to make me use the 1.5x setting...

August 2017
Chris Wolak
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: World War I and/or hard core American Lit readers
Recommended to Chris by: stumbled upon it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a four-star book marred by a two-star ending. A series of jagged, abrupt vignettes with great imagery evokes the experiences of an American ambulance driver in the Great War, but it's rather spoiled by a heavy-handed discussion of a new world order by the various soldiers and noncombatants at the end. Still worthwhile for its prose style and recommended as a notable contemporary account.
Jay Hinman
My first, uh, initiation to Dos Passos is this 1920 novella, his first book concerning a young American man’s entrée into World War I. Knowing that Dos Passos himself saw some action in The Great War, it stands to reason that much of this is drawn from the firsthand. His title character is Martin Howe, a young man who leaves the USA on a steamer for France with other scared conscripts and aggro soldiers, full of wonder and chagrin about what’s he’s about to experience. Howe concludes his stay ov ...more
Narrator: Jeff Woodman, does an excellent narration.

One Man's Initiation is not a novel with a plot that builds to a conclusion. It follows the daily life of Martin Howe, a WWI ambulance driver stationed in France, almost as if it were a diary. In fact, Dos Passos did volunteer for the Ambulance Corps in WWI, so I'm guessing the book is pretty much biographical, from his own journals.

Dos Passos gives us the soldier's daily life in vignettes. And it's not all bad. There's camaradie with people h
Christopher Sutch
This is probably the best of the modernist accounts of World War I (though there is no denying the skill and power of Hemingway's _A Farewell to Arms_). Considering that this was Dos Passos's first attempt at writing substantive fiction, and that the publisher required him to financially support its first printing, this short piece shows Dos Passos's talent for creating tight, stylized prose. The work operates through short, impressionistic passages that show the author's interest in light and s ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
wow. it's taken me a very long time* to finally get to this book. i am so glad i did! war never changes. a century ago the impact of war on individual lives is the same as it is today. war technology changes, advances. sure. but not the human horror of existing through a war esp. up close and personal as soldiers and medics do. well worth the time to read. but only if you have a conscience that cares about unnecessary pain and horror that humans visit upon other human beings.

*a long time gettin
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great war classic from iconic literary author, John dos Passos. The book details the harrowing days of young soldiers during World War I. Dos Passos himself served during that war as an ambulance driver, and Martin Howe's experiences in this book seems to have been based on dos Passos' experiences. The war changed dos Passos, who came out of it denigrating its evils, root causes, and calling for drastic measures to end all wars in almost all of his writings. Nearly a century after he wrote this ...more
Erik Graff
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWI fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
This is a reprint of the author's first novel, about some of the experiences of a volunteer American ambulance driver in the first world war, published in 1945, at the end of the second world war. For me, the most interesting part of it was Dos Passos' introduction, comparing the man he was in 1920 to what he had become in 1945, a move from that idealistic socialism best represented by his magisterial USA trilogy and reflected somewhat in one of the closing scenes of this short novel.

Dos Passos'
Short book (100 pages) of short vignettes describing one man's encounter with the horrors of war as a volunteer ambulance driver in WWI. Don't just read this for the stories, which are fantastic. Read this also for the excessible, expressive, prose. Any writers of action, adventure, fantasy, or scifi should study this one. The kindle version is free on Amazon - get it and enjoy.......
Sarah Benson
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pretty sobering for a first venture into the books taking place during the First World War. About as much "fun" as any book about war can be but I did learn a lot (which I promptly forgot 90% of, I'm sure).
Patricia Todd-dennis
Amazing how so much of the dialog in this book could be current. I guess we never learn...
Ross Barlow
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dos-passos
Looking good.
LoA is fantastic
Jul 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I prefer All Quiet on the Western Front.
Jonathan S. Harbour
Excellent narration of a mediocre war memoir disguised as a novella. Quite slow and boring but interesting if you're a WWI historian.
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-americans
John Dos Passos was less of a plotter and more a weaver of worlds, a truth that he himself must have realized after he completed this book which unlike his more famous novels is telling his story through a protagonist named Martin. Dos Passos definitely qualifies as one of those writers whose debut is not worth the effort unless one is a staunch fan - or in this case interested in the First World War. Like Hemingway did in Italy, Dos Passos was also an ambulance man but on the Western Front in F ...more
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An anti-war novella in prose, Dos Passos draws on lived experience near the lines of France in world war 1. public schules just love tooting about this war, though less so that the one that followed. He captures the mania of the folk drawn to participate in battles and the horror of destruction. If you can get this into the hands of anyone sexually aroused by the romance and slick marketing of the death machine (and yes, they have a huge PR department), you might save a life. A Bad Quaker recomm ...more
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
This book felt very disjointed, and I didn't enjoy it at all. Perhaps if I'd read the a physical book instead of having an audiobook it wouldn't have been so much of an issue when it jumped around so much between chapters.

Otherwise, I supposed it's an alright glimpse into the life of a WWI medical corpsman.
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I believe this was a free audible book because I wouldn't have a bought it. It does provide some insight into WWI which I'm not too familiar with but its to short to really care about the characters and the anti war stance becomes really really thick at the end of novel.
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"But after the war we'll be free to do as we please,"

"We'll never forget [it]."

The very beginning of the novel, on the transport ship out of NYC, Dos Passos introduces a symmetrical repetition on images and words. At first it seems as if he is doing it to capture the rolling, lolling motion of the ship over the waves, but later, when the story is much broader in scope than just a mere ocean, this continual repetition and reworking of the same images captures that sameness of civilization and all
Robin Friedman
Jul 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"One Man's Initiation:1917" was the first novel of the American writer John Dos Passos (1896 -- 1970) and offers a semi-autobiographical account of the writer's experience as an ambulance driver in France as a young man. I became interested in reading the book after reading a new biography of Woodrow Wilson by A.Scott Berg, which discusses the entry of the United States into the Great War and its aftermath.

This is a short novel of about 100 pages told in a third person narrative voice. The prima
Shortly after starting this I realized I had already listened to it previously. It is a very short book, which is why I chose it at this time. It's ok. The first half or so is decent little snippets of scenes out of World War I (which I find unfortunately should be called the Forgotten War, since it was so eclipsed in every way by WWII). These scenes are rather terrifying, particularly due to the gas weapons.
The second half or so becomes a little preachy and pushing toward an ultimate socialist
Jun 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In some ways this is just another WW1 novella about the horror of war. But it's unusual in that Dos Passos goes to great lengths to capture the surrounding beauty that is juxtaposed against the filth, destruction and horror of war. He captures the colors and smells of Paris and the French countryside that exist side by side with the terrible sights and smells of war. He describes the ennui and irony of war with great sensitivity. He also does a good job of revealing the intense personal relation ...more
I give it 3.5 stars until I read "Manhattan Transfer". I find it difficult to review a book that was considered on the cusp of a shift in literary style. My understanding from some reviews is that, like Manhattan Transfer does for NYC, the book was written with prose, pacing changes, 'mayfly' characters, etc that evoke the confusion of the First World War. So to criticize these elements might be like complaining you can't understand what anyone in Joyce's "Ulysses" is saying; the elements chosen ...more
Aug 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition offered this short first Dos Passos novel as a free download and I decided to give it a try since I had not read anything by him since college and I couldn't remember what that had been. In this book, he describes the horrors of World War I through the eyes of Martin Howe, a young American volunteer ambulance driver. It is more a series of vignettes or sketches than a plot -developed novel and, as such, has a disjointed feel to it. The author is fairly heavy handed throughout in his ...more
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John Roderigo Dos Passos was an American novelist and artist.

He received a first-class education at The Choate School, in Connecticut, in 1907, under the name John Roderigo Madison. Later, he traveled with his tutor on a tour through France, England, Italy, Greece and the Middle East to study classical art, architecture and literature.

In 1912 he attended Harvard University and, after graduating in
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