Generals Die in Bed
Reviewed: November 6, 2002
By: Charles Yale Harrison
Publisher: Annick Press
175 pages, $9.95
book crossed my desk last winter about the same time that I was reading about
it in Pierre Berton’s Marching as to War.
Berton makes the point that this book is probably the Canadian equivalent of
Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front for sheer power and for its honest
portrayal of what life was like for soldiers in the trenches during the Great
War of 1914-18.
many other writers of what was often called the Lost Generation, Harrison took
his time getting around to the task of fictionalizing his own experience. An
American who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Harrison was in the
war from almost the very beginning, and writes from the viewpoint of one who
was caught up in the initial euphoria and learned to loathe the truth.
war was supposed to be a grand adventure, a testing ground for manhood..
Instead, it turned out to be a meatgrinder, a constantly churning machine into which the generals threw
division after division in the vain hope that any obstacle could be overcome if
you simply used enough manpower.
technology was way ahead of the tactics, and Harrison, as well as Remarque and
Ernest Hemingway (in A Farewell to Arms)
described in graphic detail what really went on in No Mans Land when the order
came to go “over the top”.
Generals Die in Bed echoes the
sentiments of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem “Base Details”, in which the infantry
men die on the line while the majors and colonels toddle off to their
comfortable berths and die in bed.
novel is a powerful story and one that should be required reading for a certain
US President, who seems to think that this war business is all about technology
and precision bombing.