September 27, 2010
Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory:
Logically, one supposes, there's no reason why a language devised by man should be inadequate to describe any of man's works. The difficulty was in admitting that the war had been made by men and was being continued ad infinitum by them. The problem was less one of "language" than of gentility and optimism; it was less a problem of "linguistics" than of rhetoric. Louis Simpson speculates about the reason infantry soldiers so seldom render their experiences in language: "To a foot-soldier, war is almost entirely physical. That is why some men, when they think about war, fall silent. Language seems to falsify physical life and to betray those who have experienced it absolutely - the dead." But that can't be right. The real reason is that soldiers have discovered that no one is very interested in the bad news they have to report. What listener wants to be torn and shaken when he doesn't have to be? We have made unspeakable mean indescribable; it really means nasty.Yeah, I'm still here. And as cheery as ever.