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Fear: A Novel of World War I

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4.18  ·  Rating details ·  913 ratings  ·  175 reviews
1915: Jean Dartemont heads off to the Great War, an eager conscript. The only thing he fears is missing the action. Soon, however, the vaunted war to end all wars seems like a war that will never end: whether mired in the trenches or going over the top, Jean finds himself caught in the midst of an unimaginable, unceasing slaughter. After he is wounded, he returns from the ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by NYRB Classics (first published 1930)
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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Matt
Apr 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man.
- Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

Here everything is planned for killing. The ground is ready to receive us, the bullets are ready to hit us, the spots where the shells will explode are fixed in time and space, just like the paths of
...more
Lawyer
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those interested in literature from World War I
Recommended to Lawyer by: NYTimes Book Review
Fear:A Novel of World War I, The one novel you must read about the Great War

 photo chevallier_zps57fb9836.jpg
Gabriel Chevalier in service during World War I

Much more to come. Not to heighten suspense, this novel is superb. Chevallier holds nothing back in his depiction of war. It is a scathing portrait of indifferent leaders mindful of their reputation but not the fate of their men. Discipline is brutal. Armed Gendarmes on horseback are stationed behind the lines to send men moving to the rear back to the front. Gendarmes who
...more
Sue
Apr 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you are interested in World War I on this the centenary of that terrible event and, especially, if you are interested in life and action on the front during that war, then I suggest you get a copy of this book. While this is a novel, it reads like fact and was written by a Frenchman who lived through these battles on the front. Perhaps fictionalized memoir is an apt description for this book.

We begin with Jean Dartemont's rather lackadaisical approach to joining the French war effort and
...more
Tony
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wwi, nyrb-classics
I wanted to read about World War I without going into the trenches, but, necessarily, into the trenches we must go. Absurdity is there, along with the putrefaction. It doesn't take long for our semi-autobiographical, first-person narrator to understand that he is mere fodder, that there is no point. Yet, he is there for the duration, collecting stories and sharing the Fear. He is even capable of moments of courage.

My views of War and of military ritual were formed long ago. What was new for me,
...more
Sebastien
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good war memoir (well, I consider it lightly-veiled memoir). I've been trying to work my way through various WWI memoirs, there is a long list I'd like to get to, and I'd like to explore memoirs from various theaters and various cultures/nationalities (if you have any suggestions please let me know!). It's interesting getting the worm's eye view - almost literally when it comes to the nature of trench warfare! - of this episode of history.

This book contrasts nicely with Ernst Junger's Storm
...more
Jane
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed, wwi, france
Wow!! This one is an unrecognized classic of the military novel genre that should be better known! Jean Dartemont, the eager young Frenchman, joins the French army in 1915 against the Germans. He is quickly disillusioned as to blind patriotism and to army life: there is no glory to be found here except that for the high officers, who grab it at the expense of the ranks. All to be found here in the trenches is only mind-numbing monotony and overwhelmingly, the desire to stay alive. Mostly the men ...more
Jim
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Written by a French veteran of the First World War, FEAR is one of the great anti-war novels. Not as melodramatic as JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN nor even ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (and I use "melodramatic" only in a comparative sense), nor as absurdly comic as CATCH-22, Gabriel Chevallier's novel is simply (at least on the surface) a seemingly objective description of the life of a French poilu, or foot-soldier, in the trenches of northern France from 1914 to 1918. Chevallier recoils not one bit ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
When I chose this book to read next, I noted the irony of my having commented about the explicit violence in Señor Vivo and the Coca Lord. But in that it was the sadism involved and it's being personal rather than general. There are a lot of adjectives to describe The Great War, but I wouldn't use sadistic, other than that I'm sure there were sadists among the combatants, probably on both sides. The works I've been reading don't include that aspect, thankfully.

I also read recently Under Fire,
...more
Calzean
Apr 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've read three books on WWI this week. Without doubt this one was the most graphic and captured the brutality, pointlessness and evil of war in the trenches of WWI.
A novel based on the author' own experience which is also interesting in that the man survived five years of fighting.
Very descriptive of the carnage and wounds experienced, anger at the Generals and politicians and respectful of his fellow soldier where fear was a daily experience.
It is probably one of the best WWI novels written.
João Reis
Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I have ever read. The true anti-war novel. There's no false bravery here.
Nicholas During
Jan 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is totally incredible. Similar to All Quiet on the Western Front, or Storm of Steel, or Under Fire, it is the story of a young soldier on the frontlines of WWI. In fact, though it is a novel with the hero Jean Dartremont it feels like a memoir, or really a series of scenes from the war, which only add to its power. It starts in the carnival atmosphere of a France celebrating the beginning of a war. An old man who is slightly reticent in his patriotism and jingoism is promptly beaten ...more
James Murphy
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fear is an antiwar novel. Given the date of its publication I think it must have been one of the first of the Great War antiwar novels. A reviewer of this recent New York Review edition and translation commented that we've read similar treatises before. And perhaps we have, but it still seems fresh. Part of it is certainly because it's so well written, and part of it may be that there aren't that many novels of the war from the French perspective available in English. My own judgment is that it ...more
Lobstergirl
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nyrb, fiction

This is Chevallier's fictionalized experience in World War I. It was first published in 1930; then, as the Second World War arrived, it was suppressed. Its message: war is disgusting, ugly, and pointless. Fear is the only proper response. The generals, the commanders, the war planners, and officers, have their heads far up their butts; if they themselves were actually in combat, the war would get resolved exceedingly rapidly.

I would not choose to read three (or even two) war novels back to back,
...more
Jan Rice
Aug 13, 2019 marked it as here-i-halted-unfinished-so-far
Shelves: history, fiction
I think I bought this book last year, having read about it, but I misunderstood what it was: a scandalous (at the time) book about WWI from the French angle -- perhaps similar in that way to All Quiet on the Western Front. I started it and it seemed good; just not in accord with my reading priorities. I gave it away. So many books! Of course now, wouldn't you know, I started some Patrick Modiano, and it may have been helpful....
Steve Petherbridge
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Of all the books that I have read that have graphically described the Western Front of World War I, including the now iconic "All Quiet On The Western Front", this is, perhaps, the best and most descriptively informative. This is probably due to the great translation and the readability and accessibility of the modern prose used.

"Fear" is a testimony of not only the author's service and experiences, but, also delves into the class divisions in society of the time that dictated who directed the
...more
Mike Clinton
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found this roman à clef of the First World War from a novelist-participant on the French side more gripping and psychologically engaging in some parts than All Quiet on the Western Front. Having read extensively already about the French experience in la Grande Guerre, I may be biased; still, there doesn't have to be a rivalry for which one is the better, since they each have their memorable moments and rewarding insights about soldiers at war - war in general as well as this particular war.

I
...more
Daniel Polansky
So, so good. I've read a lot of the English WWI autobiographies (although this is technically a fiction, it's obviously informed by Chevallier's own experience in the trenches), Goodbye to All That, etc., and I have to say this blows it out of the water. As the title indicates, Chevallier seeks to strip bare the pointless horror of mechanized warfare, and to redefine the doughy infantrymen as one who, with the rarest exceptions, is defined largely if not exclusively by a desperate, all ...more
Andy Weston
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First published in 1930 this novel is based heavily on the authors own experiences fighting in the Great War. Like his character, Jean Dartemont, he fought throughout the length of the war, incurring a relatively minor injury, and gaining despite his criticism and anti-war stance, many medals.
The real strength of the novel is in its scenes in the trenches, which occupy the large part of the story. No detail or horror is spared in Chevalliers descriptions (translated so expertly by Malcolm
...more
Nick
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Although Gabriel Chevallier titled the novel based on his World War I experiences "Fear", it covers a much wider palette--anger, foolhardiness, boredom, even irreverence, mostly directed at authority. What the reader will not find in Chevallier is any notion of glory and honor. In fact, at leave early on in the novel, his narrator, Jean Dartemont, is alienated even by the gauzy patriotism of his home town. The war itself is frequently hellish, but not without touches of wit, especially from ...more
Doubledf99.99
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-1, classics
Very brutal and vivid descriptions of life in the trenches, what one has do, go through to survive and then what one become's. It just boggles my mind what those soldiers had to endure on a day to day basis. The author's description of his first sight of the front is something out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, total hell unleashed. A worthy read for anyone interested in WWI.
Miranda
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Placeholder review

A pretty brutal and essential read. Lots of great historical information without much of a story. But war is like that.
Guy
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
About a third of the way into Gabriel Chevalliers WWI novel, Fear, our young narrator, Jean Dartemont, finds himself in a hospital recuperating from wounds. The nurses seek tales of war, glory and valiant dutyafter all, Jean must have had a number of stories that prefaced his horrible wounds and successful evacuation. But instead Jean, who was a student prior to entering the war in 1915, tries to convey the realities of war to an audience who simply do not understand. Jeans fervent arguments ...more
Steph (loves water)
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww1-fiction, 2016
Fantastic. I'm on a mission to understand more about World War 1, and this was yet another work of art. Gabriel Chevallier was a talented writer, as others have stated he writes well, depicting WW1 in a way to chich I've not been exposed. A semi-autobiographical account based on Chevallier's own experiences, this memior, disguised as fiction, rings true. The trenches, the decomposing bodies, the rats. Also kudos to the translator for an entirely readable effort.

There are some impressive quotes
...more
Candy Hudziak
Nov 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is without a doubt the best novel of WWI I have ever read. It's not even really about the war, although the war is ever present. It's more about what a person becomes in those circumstances. He writes that the worst aspect of the war, worse than the bullets and bombs, is the mental anguish each one of them goes through to overcome their fear. This book is not a celebration of war or duty, nor is there a moral or an inspirational message about someone overcoming adversity. It's about doing ...more
Tuck
Oct 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: europa, pre-wwi, nyrb
a superb autobiographical novel of a foot soldier's life in the french army of wwi, so trenches, saps, horrible horrible bombings, gas, machine guns, going over the top, pows, wounds, and death so vivid there is no escape. but also told personable, funny, ironic with views on 'the brass', politicians, the folks 'back home', the press, thus funny in vonnegut and joseph heller way, insightful and dreadful like nothing else.
the one novel of wwi (for those who limit themselves to 'only one')
Numidica
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
First person account of a French soldier's service in WWI. In my view, better than All Quiet on the Western Front.
Nicole~
Aug 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, war, wwi
4.5 stars
sslyb
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, france, kindle, ww-i
1st person account - excellent
Michał/Michael Nikodem/Nicodemus  Hołda/Holda
Journey of life storyteller at Great War, that begins with prequel to the war.Such us, crowds of Frenchman looking at first war posters, confused at first.But then eager to live there private lives just for adventure of conquering. The mirage of the futures fate.

As Anyone, author has thought of becoming an officer.But after promising results from exams his first drill has Been crucial to him becoming private ,and not an officer.There was also even letter from his grandmother about request for
...more
chris
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Rooms in St. Johns, Newfoundland has a display on now commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of Beaumont Hamel, the site of a disastrous advance made by the Newfoundland Regiment on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. The display focuses rightly on the human side of the attack, highlighting personal stories, diary entries and seemingly hundreds of photos of young men and women. The honour and bravery of these individuals shines through in comments like Lieutenant Owen ...more
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Gabriel Chevallier (3 May 1895 6 April 1969) was a French novelist widely known as the author of the satire Clochemerle.

Born in Lyon in 1895, Gabriel Chevallier was educated in various schools before entering Lyon École des Beaux-Arts in 1911. He was called up at the start of World War I and wounded a year later, but returned to the front where he served as an infantryman until the war's end. He
...more

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