BOOK ´ Testament of Youth An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1900 1925 Æ Vera Brittain
Testament of Youth An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1900 19251915 to enlist as a nurse in the armed services Brittain served in London in Malta and on the Western Front By war's end she had lost virtually everyone she loved Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived thro This book is great and painful a memoir by Vera Brittain the English writer mostly a wartime memoir based on her experiences during the First World WarBritain was an Oxford student when World War I began volunteered as a nurse and was a witness on the vicious war and its victims lost two of her loved ones her brother and fiance after the war she lived in a state of despair and she never completely gets over their death and war scenes years later she became a journalist novelist and a speaker as a feminist and pacifist
Vera Brittain Æ Testament of Youth An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1900 1925 KINDLE
Much of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain's elegiac yet unsparing book which set a standard for memoirists from Martha Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman Abandoning her studies at Oxford in It's another irony of that most ironic of conflicts that the greatest account of how 1914 18 was lived comes not from a male writer out of the trenches or from some politician familiar with the negotiations but instead from a middle class girl from Derbyshire who experienced the war first as a waiting fiancée and later as a volunteer nurse Vera Brittain grew up in Buxton where her father owned a couple of paper mills; she was close to her musical brother had a growing romance with one of his schoolfriends and fought with her family to be allowed to go to university Her provincial childhood was characteristic of a rather staid but untroubled Edwardian society which offered few opportunities for intelligent women Then when she was 20 came the world warThe careful attempt in Testament of Youth to recreate this context – the book begins in the nineteenth century and doesn't end until the 1930s – is what makes it such a powerful read When the war comes it is seen not as some isolated ordeal of shelling and trenches nor as a political collapse – but as the Apocalypse for an entire society that was already struggling with class relationships and gender imbalances and whose failure to address these issues was in fact central to the way it faced military conflictIt's hard to write about this memoir objectively because reading it is such an emotional experience Day after day it left me drained and speechless partly in sympathy with the losses she suffered and partly in admiration at her techniue Her narrative voice is absolutely flawless; she finds a dry amused tone which is drenched in a kind of sad wisdom and which positions her suarely in a tradition of English irony that I adore She can be very funny when she needs to be and she does not over egg the moments of high drama well aware of when bare facts will do the job Throughout the book there is a profound sense of authorial control that I only feel with the greatest writersCertainly the way she evokes the experience of those left behind during the war especially women is nowhere done better Her use of contemporary diaries and letters allows her to recreate with extraordinary effect the ‘prolonged apprehension’ the mental strain of constantly waiting for telegrams or letters from the front to learn whether one's friends and family are still whole or not ‘Even now’ she comments writing in 1933 ‘I cannot work comfortably in a room from which it is possible to hear the front door bell’ As her brother her fiancé and her friends all troop off to fight Brittain realises that she is suffering ‘like so many women in 1914 from an inferiority complex’ This is something that many female writers of the time have tried to analyse – I kept going back to a poem called ‘Drafts’ by Nora Bomford in Scars Upon My HeartSo dreadfully safe O damn the shibbolethOf sex God knows we've eual personalityWhy should men face the dark while women stayTo live and laugh and meet the sun each dayBut no one has made me feel the psychological outrage of this as well as Vera Brittain does here not even Rebecca West Desperate to do something she drops out of her hard won course at Somerville College Oxford in order to enrol as a VAD where she works first in London then in Malta and finally in France The stark realities that nursing represented for a sheltered middle class girl are brilliantly evoked – this was a time she points out when ‘all girls' clothing appeared to be designed by their elders on the assumption that decency consisted in leaving exposed to the sun and air no part of the human body that could possibly be covered with flannel’ Now here she was stripping men naked treating venereal disease and mopping up blood pus and vomit for twelve hours a daySex was not I think a strong force in Vera Brittain's life at least her early life as described here; she was not very interested in boys growing up and her attraction to her fiancé Roland was primarily an artistic and intellectual one – they had got engaged almost without having experienced any physical contact at all Given this complete anatomical ignorance of a kind now hard to imagine it is all the astonishing to read such sensitive passages as the following which I found extraordinarily movingShort of actually going to bed with the patients there was hardly an intimate service that I did not perform for one or another in the course of four years and I still have reason to be thankful for the knowledge of masculine functioning which the care of them gave me and for my early release from the sex inhibitions that even to day – thanks to the Victorian tradition which up to 1914 dictated that a young woman should know nothing of men but their faces and their clothes until marriage pitchforked her into an incompletely visualised and highly disconcerting intimacy – beset many of my female contemporaries both married and singleIn the early days of the War the majority of soldier patients belonged to a first rate physical type which neither wounds nor sickness unless mortal could permanently impair and from the constant handling of their lean muscular bodies I came to understand the essential cleanliness the innate nobility of sexual love on its physical side Although there was much to shock in Army hospital service much to terrify much even to disgust this day by day contact with male anatomy was never part of the shame Since it was always Roland whom I was nursing by proxy my attitude towards him imperceptibly changed; it became less romantic and realistic and thus a new depth was added to my loveWhat I want to draw attention to here beyond the emotional impact is the fact that in 1933 there was really no established prose convention under which women could write about men's bodies in this way; Brittain is forging this language for the first time and that's something she succeeds in doing at many points throughout the book It is one of the most striking implications of her wonderful and wonderfully undoctrinaire feminism that she is determined to say what is unsaid and importantly to explain what is insufficiently understood about women's experiences of the war and of social pressures in general This is not to say that she neglects how her male friends experienced the war – uite to the contrary she is committed to understanding and memorialising what she memorably calls ‘the tragic profound freemasonry of those who accepted death together overseas’; but by focusing elsewhere she somehow makes it profound and tragic than I've ever felt it beforeThe sense of clear eyed realism that characterises Brittain's descriptions is reinforced by her rejection of any religious comfort Her spiritual beliefs constitute a kind of uesting agnosticism informed in part by Olive Schreiner's 1883 novel The Story of an African Farm which was a keystone book for her and Roland But she is convinced that death is final; and at times when she is thinking about interpersonal duties and responsibilities she is very inspiring on this subjectAnd then I remembered with a startling sense of relief that there was no resurrection to complicate the changing relationships forced upon men and women by the sheer passage of earthly time There was only a brief interval between darkness and darkness in which to fulfil obligations both to individuals and society which could not be postponed to the comfortable futurity of a compensating heavenIt's very affecting to see her reach for these lessons in the latter parts of the book It would have been easy to start this book in 1914 end it in 1919 and make it a true war memoir That is not enough for her; it doesn't do the job She keeps going through the ‘numb disillusion’ through the ‘indictment of a civilisation’ on through the 1920s and into the 1930s until she reaches a point where she can start to say This is where I might be able to go next This is where society might be able to go next The whole thing is a colossal achievement hugely upsetting but hugely inspiring It blew the back of my head off It really should be read
READER Testament of Youth An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1900 1925
EBOOK Ü EPUB Testament of Youth An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1900 1925 ê 9780143039235 FREE ✓ DCMDIRECT ´ [Reading] ➸ Testament of Youth An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1900 1925 By Vera Brittain – Dcmdirect.co.ukUgh and an elegy for a vanished generation Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as a book that helped “both form and define the mood of its time” it speaks to any generation that has been irrevocably changed by war Whenever I think of the War to day it is not as summer but always as winter; always as cold and darkness and discomfort and an intermittent warmth of exhilarating excitement which made us irrationally exult in all three Its permanent symbol for me is a candle stuck in the neck of a bottle the tiny flame flickering in an ice cold draught yet creating a miniature illusion of light against an opaue infinity of blacknessThe temptation to exploit our young wartime enthusiasm must have been immense—and was not fiercely resisted by the military authorities A full century after the birth of Vera Brittain my sister was born not I Nineteen years later while aware of the centennial reenactments and commemorative capitalism clustering around the secondary war year of 192015 discovering this tome wrapped in a movie adaptation cover still startled and far surprisingly fatigued I've grown out of making cracks at the efforts of a previous generation to sell to the contemporary generation words of paper wrapped in the light of the silver screen for A there is no point and B such remarks keep none of the promises this work provides So the sayers would rather the current youth spend itself as much as the young of WWI did on blinkered hopes and fruitless massacre than experience a past media within the context of a different form and the modes of a different present Good to know I don’t mind anything really so long as I don’t lose my personality—or even have it temporarily extinguishedI myself cannot yet realise that each little singing thing that flies near me holds latent in it the power of death for someone My responsibility is not to take this work as it was once written and confine it precisely within the means and manners of tongues long silent and minds long dead If that is what you want go read someone who is paid to do so As such I do not expect Brittain or any other of her generation to be able to conceptualize drones AIDS and global warming so I refuse to conceptualize the exigency of imperialism Orientalism and xenophobia always newly adaptive and very rarely today a conseuence of pure survival There is power in how Brittain scripts out the belly of the beast twenty five years of the Powers That Be turning on its once beloved lambs and sending them as uickly to the slaughter as the citizens of their colonized domains but bad faith kills in these self isolating times of mine What is necessary now is to see that on the cusp of my mid twenties and that final degree in English my time was already played out a century earlier on the backs of contemporary postcolonial times and it does no good to focus on similar faces when identical ideals are bleeding and burning and dying in those less staged areas of the world True no woman comes to mind in the halls of those patriarchal monoliths of leadership and genocide but tell me fellow feminists who share the color of my skin is that what you really want? I was the only woman returning bringing with me no doubt—terrifying thought—the psychological fruit of my embarrassing experiencesThought was too dangerous; if once I began to think out exactly why my friends had died and I was working uite dreadful things might suddenly happen There's always this tension you know On the one hand this is one of the works by women that make up a little than 20% of the much bandied about 1001 Books to Read Before You Die but it follows the trail that women are not worth writing much beyond the recording of their every so often singular experiences and unusual circumstances True I considered such a mix masterful in its every turn of letters poetry music and journalism telegrams and speeches of Liberal Halls and the League of Nations but first it had to survive It is not dispassionate It does not mince It neither pretends towards the conjured ideals of aristocrats with too much time on their hands nor the apolitical motions of those with the dictionary and the physiognomy to match You could get wonderfully lost in all the literary references to the much studied Victorians and the much embellished Roaring 20's but you could also be disgruntled by the sexual harassment at fourteen the candid talk of venereal disease traded for social stability even the imperialistic tendencies that jar so determinedly against appeals for peace if you're really up for a challenge After all it is war of the early 20th century and all's fair in love and chronological excuses people persist in saying that God made the war when there are such inventions of the Devil aboutas though we could somehow compensate the dead by remembering them regardless of expense Vera Brittain goes off to read and write and educate then decides 'twould be a lovely concept to volunteer for death The words and rhymes are all very well in the beginning when peace is a granted and love a burgeoning possibility but then the souls begin to die Again and again and again the catharsis of healing turned to the automaton of rote all in order to keep in mind that it is not personal War you see is never personal It'll starve you and rot you and rape you but it can no help its escalation of toxic masculinity and governmental conversions of blood into blood money than can the rich and the poor their man made imbalance One could indeed follow the trail of power relations and concentration of arms back to the socioeconomic entrails of land and politics but what exactly do you intend to do there? Don't you have better things to do with your life? Don't you want to live? Why was personality so vulnerable why did it succumb to such small humiliating assailants?England panic stricken was frantically raising the military age to fifty It's all very simple really but considering how college students are still being funded by military industrial complexes and no one wants to know were ISIL really got their weapons and their training and their hatred little has changed A lie when I consider Novel Without a Name The Guest Almanac of the Dead The Fire Next Time Beloved Guantánamo Diary violence in all its faces and communal agony in all its places PTSD of a multigenerational variety and war crimes in all their sacrosanctity but the hippies that preached peace were white supremacists of a culturally appropriative and sexual assault nature so forgive me if I find the situation complicated than Support The Troops and God Bless America Why is it that all my university mentors want me to do research work at the expense of fiction and my literary mentors fiction at the expense of history?She says that she has never yet written a book without making an enemy Vera Brittain is dead so I cannot relay to her what her times have left me what different breeds of indoctrinated brutality I have inherited and how her morals had to be trimmed and weeded and abruptly expanded in order to cope Perhaps I would infuriate her one who five years ago did not conscript herself for healing out of patriotic determination instead remaining safe and secure in the education of one who destined to create the seeds of the new world and the post apocalyptic descendant of mustard gas I may have refuted that path for a rapidly approaching future of an English nature but what have I achieved in the meantime? A lazy generation mine No ruined economies and not a genocide to speak of Leastwise not yet Was this really the heart of the conveyor of civilization to primitive peoples the British Empire in the post war summer of 1922 or had we inadvertently strayed into the time of Martin Luther with his robust views on the uses of women?Yet always after a tumult I thought I was forced to conclude that is only by grasping this nettle danger that we pluck this flower safety; that those who flee from emotion from intimacy from the shocks and perils attendant upon all close human relationships end in being attacked by unseen Furies in the ultimate stronghold of their spirit This work drained me to the bone The best ones often do but this is the sort that will continue to antagonize with its energetic determination and naive morale confronting my theoretical ethics time and time again with the reality of bandages tombstones and the torpedoed sister of the Titanic No I am not a war veteran and never plan to be Brittain's world has grown much smaller since she looked upon its last pages and the constructions of her peacetime and the evaluations of her justice will never be mine Can one make a book out of the very essence of one’s self? Perhaps so if one was left with one’s gift stripped bare of all that made it worth having and nothing else was left THE SUPERFLUOUS WOMANGhosts crying down the vistas of the yearsRecalling wordsWhose echoes long have diedAnd kind moss grownOver the sharp and blood bespattered stonesWhich cut our feet upon the ancient ways But who will look for my coming?Long busy days where many meet and part;Crowded asideRemembered hours of hope;And city streetsGrown dark and hot with eager multitudesHurrying homeward whither respite waits But who will seek me at nightfall?Light fading where the chimneys cut the sky;Footsteps that passNor tarry at my doorAnd far awayBehind the row of crosses shadows blackStretch out long arms before the smouldering sun But who will give me my children?