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The Enormous Room

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,698 Ratings  ·  161 Reviews
In 1917 young Edward Estlin Cummings went to France as a volunteer with a Red Cross ambulance unit on the western front. But his free-spirited, insubordinate ways soon got him tagged as a possible enemy of La Patrie, and he was summarily tossed into a French concentration camp at La Ferte-Mace in Normandy. Under the vilest conditions, Cummings found fulfillment of his ever ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1922)
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War-time Japes

The Enormous Room, the fictionalised account of Cummings's arrest and incarceration by the French on charges of sedition during WWI, reads like a Billy Bunter story. The protagonist is obnoxious and endearing in about equal measure.

The various French authorities (and for that matter American, Cummings accommodates everyone), from the snobbish regional police chief to his medievally minded jailers are more or less treated with the disdain a clever 12 year old feels, but rarely shows
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2004-2010)
He preferred that his name be written as “e. e. cummings” because some of his poems were also all in lowercase. I’ve read some of those and I really liked them so when I saw this book, even at a regular price, I immediately bought and read this.

Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962) was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. He wrote poetry daily from the age of 8 to 22. During World War I, when he was 23, he volunteered as ambulance driver in France. He went there with a frien
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I had the power to describe e.e. cummings's prose, I'd be even more of a genius than he was. I can't understand why he spent so much time writing poetry instead. Who else speaks of "a spic, not to say span, gentleman"? Observes a man "buckle his personality" and "bang forward with bigger and bigger feet"? Explains that he "hoisted my suspicious utterances upon my shoulder, which recognized the renewal of hostilities with a neuralgic throb"? Says that "rain did, from time to time, not fall: fr ...more
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Es una pena que un libro tan impactante haya pasado desapercibido y no lo haya leído casi nadie. La habitación enorme (1922) se basa en un hecho que le sucedió a E.E. Cummings en Francia durante la Primera Guerra Mundial. Por un error burocrático, un noble norteamericano (el propio Cummings) que conducía ambulancias durante la Gran Guerra da con sus huesos en una celda francesa (la habitación enorme del título) compartida con varios presos, a cual más pintoresco. Durante los meses que estuvo cau ...more
Halfway through, even two-thirds of the way through, I was struggling with this book. I was struggling until almost the very end when all of a sudden, I realized two things. Firstly, what the book was really about - friendship and the sense of freedom and confidence felt when one has gotten through a terrible experience alive. Secondly, that the author had made me emotionally struggle when he was struggling and I felt emotionally relieved, revived and so alive when he felt so too. The emotional ...more
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
It struck me at the time as intensely interesting that, in the case of a certain type of human being, the more cruel are the miseries inflicted upon him the more cruel does he become toward anyone who is so unfortunate as to be weaker or more miserable than himself."
― E.E. Cummings, The Enormous Room


Prison Literature as a genre is fascinating. Like war literature, there is this gap between those who have actually lived in prison and their experiences and those who imagine. Certainly the job of t
Feb 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine if "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" was funny. Yeah, that's kind of what "The Enormous Room" is like. I'm glad I read it. But I'm also really glad Cummings stuck to poetry after this. Fiction is definitely not his thing. He spends most of the book writing character sketches of all the other inmates, and giving them cute nicknames. And I suppose it's easy to be light-hearted about the time you spent in a French prison/detention center if you were only there for 4 months. There's not ...more
Stephanie "Jedigal"
Ugh. Not finishing and NOT going to.

I absolutely adore e.e.cummings poetry. But this memoir of his months in a French prison during WWI just does absolutely nothing for me. I was pushing myself to keep going, and kept pushing, but after getting about 60% of the way through, I give up.

I can see why this would work for other people, but it just didn't work for me. It comes off as a series of barely organized anecdotes, with a thin thread of only semi-chronological narrative winding through. Sure,
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-08-aug
This as my second attempt, didn't beyond a third of the way through on the first go. This time with the help of serial reader I've finished. For me this could have been so much more enjoyable if I'd felt empathy with the characters.
May 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic-fiction
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Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 14, 1894. He began writing poems as early as 1904 and studied Latin and Greek at the Cambridge Latin High School.

He received his BA in 1915 and his MA in 1916, both from Harvard University. His studies there introduced him to the poetry of avant-garde writers, such as Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound.

In 1917, Cummings published a
More about E.E. Cummings...
“By the way, a gendarme assured me this is not a prison.” 24 likes
“I was too tired to think. I merely felt the town as a unique unreality. What was it? I knew -- the moon's picture of a town. These streets with their houses did not exist, they were but a ludicrous projection of the moon's sumptuous personality. This was a city of Pretend, created by the hypnotism of moonnight. -- Yet when I examined the moon she too seemed but a painting of a moon and the sky in which she lived a fragile echo of color. If I blew hard the whole shy mechanism would collapse gently with a neat soundless crash. I must not, or lose all.” 20 likes
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