jeremy's Reviews > War and Turpentine

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
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we turn tough and get sentimental; we laugh as we cry; our life's a waking slumber, a slumberous wake; we quarrel with our arms around each other; we lash out at each other while shrugging our shoulders; no part of our bodies or minds remains intact; we breathe as long as we live, and live merely because we are breathing, as long as it lasts.
stefan hertmans's war and turpentine (oorlog en terpentijn) is a tale inspired by the life of the flemish author's grandfather. while much of this melancholy novel is beautifully told, there are parts that not only lag, but draw away from the book's otherwise impressive narrative. war and turpentine's second part, "1914-1918," set during urbain's war years (and told from a first-person perspective), is the novel's finest. with art and armed conflict at its focus, hertmans's book is a worthy outing, offering a rich, evocative look into one soldier's life and times.

war and turpentine is a moving and fitting tribute to hertmans's grandfather, albeit one of some inconsistency in its overall effect.

(3.5 stars)
to think that this remote, eerily silent place could become the setting for such horrors—it shows once again how any logic of war is utterly opposed to every natural fact, to ordinary time, to the usual course of things, which has no ultimate aim and retains very little of what human beings do.

*translated from the dutch by david mckay
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Reading Progress

March 1, 2017 – Started Reading
March 1, 2017 – Finished Reading
April 9, 2017 – Shelved
April 9, 2017 – Shelved as: fiction
April 9, 2017 – Shelved as: translation

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