War, What Is It Good For?
These five beautifully tragic tales of World War II Europe answer just that.
If you are reading this, then congratulations, you are alive. And free. Odds are someone went through a lot of tragedy to get you that way. But we tend to forget what’s come before in favor of the now.
While we harp on about futile worries, our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers were dealing with heftier worriment, like does war make villains or heroes of us all? During and in the wake of the second World War, our forefathers were in crisis. Terrible and tragic things were happening, and many of them despaired at finding meaning or beauty again.
The following books tell the stories of men who walked into hell and began to worry there was no heaven. Their stories are beautiful, hopeless, triumphant, and tragic. So for your reflective and grateful edification, get lost in these tales of war and woe and life with spirits . . . and wine if you prefer.
Later turned into a film starring Marlon Brando and Dean Martin, this iconic classic covers the war in Europe from three distinct points of view: a conflicted German officer slowly losing his conscience, an American Jewish boy struggling with discrimination in the army, and his friend, a young soldier who struggles with his life having no meaning. As they fight for their lives, the war brings them closer to one another and a tragedy that may destroy them all.
This classic satire centers around Billy, the soldier “unstuck in time,” and explores the atrocities of the war in Europe through the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, and its aftermath. Through its matter-of-fact descriptions and otherworldly trips in Billy’s mind, Kurt Vonnegut wordlessly asks the question: Is war a kind of insanity?
Christopher, a privileged American-Italian journalist, is caught between the Jewish community and Nazi hierarchy in German-occupied Warsaw. As he carries on an affair with both the wife of a Jewish community leader and dallies with Nazi provided prostitutes, the Warsaw ghetto becomes more and more unbearable for its occupants. The uprising approaches and Christopher must decide once and for all what, if anything, he stands for.
A young American man seeking adventure volunteers as an ambulance driver for the British Army. He soon discovers that war is more about fear, following impossible orders, and even, occasionally, boredom. Above all, he learns that war changes people and not often for the better.
Known more now as the phrase than the novel it originated, Catch 22 tells the story of a group of pilots trying desperately to avoid flying the largely suicidal missions given to them by their superiors. Being declared insane is the only way to get out of the missions, but any attempt to be declared insane is considered official proof of sanity. Humor slides into tragedy as Heller explores the paradoxical and absurd nature of warfare.