Agnieszka's Reviews > Regeneration

Regeneration by Pat Barker
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really liked it
bookshelves: own-a-copy, 2013, reviewed, ww-1, 1001-books


This book is not about heroes. English poetry is not yet fit to speak of them.
Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War... All a poet can do today is warn. That is why the true Poets must be truthful .


In 1917 poet Sigfrid Sassoon terrified by the scale of war massacre made a statement called A Soldier's Declaration in which announced that could no longer be a soldier and wouldn’t come back on the front. Because of that he landed in Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland for observation. This is a starting point for Pat Barker’s novel Regeneration. Except Sassoon we meet there other historical figures like doctor Rivers and other poets Robert Graves and Wilfred Owen. Poets in trenches. Indeed .

You could say that idealism is a natural feature of youth. Obviously. Look at them. Graduates from elite schools and non-educated boys as well. They set off on the war as for a trip, as for a great Adventure, joined the army as a volunteers convinced that dulce et decorum is pro Patria mori, overflowed with enthusiasm, with their hearts filled pictures of brotherhood, sacrifice, honour

If I should die, think only this of me
That there's some corner of a foreign field
that is for ever England


Meanwhile had experienced inequality, snobbery, idiotic rules and punishment for its breaking and finally ended in Flanders trenches and dugouts, in waist-deep water, being gassed, waiting for death. So, where is the honour, where’s the glory in that?

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons .


These who survived, physically and mentally crippled, with eating disorders, with speech defects, haunted by nightmares and hallucinations landed in hospitals for regeneration. That title has an ironic overtone as well, because doctors helped their patients to regenerate, to recover their fragile mental equilibrium in purpose to send them back on the front.

In one of the scenes doctor Rivers is watching fresco depicturing Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac to God. There is something symbolical in that. Yes, what a nation, what a government could send own sons for death ? Does such society deserve of our fidelity and trust ?

Many people have been killed in that war. And many poets too. We could risk a statement that XX century English literature has began with death of poetry. And experiences of the Great War has symbolically ended the Golden Age. As if, after Flanders fields, after Ypres and Somme, writing sweet poems have been something indecent, as if a literature itself has lost its innocence.

But the past is just the same, and War's a bloody game. . . .
Have you forgotten yet ? . . .
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget





In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row ...
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Reading Progress

June 23, 2009 – Shelved
December 7, 2013 – Started Reading
December 9, 2013 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Kalliope (new) - added it

Kalliope I read this when it came out... now I am considering whether to tackle it again, with the rest of the trilogy.


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