Like my colleagues here I wish to assert in the strongest terms that on Monday we are celebrating Armistice Day, a day to thrill that war itself was finally defeated, rather than a day to celebrate war as Veterans’ Day has become. A free Bloomin’ Onion at Outback? Ask a flag-waver about WWI and they will know little beyond “we kicked ass, we won.”
But alas war was not finally defeated. As we should get used to when we study history: we lost, we all lost. Civilization lost. Decency lost. And in many ways the world ended.
The wonderful Hungarian novelist Sándor Márai is my favorite to capture the death of the West that was WWI. He lived a uniquely Hungarian life — a man, like the great Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, who saw the world end after 1918 and who understood and anticipated the nightmare that was to come. Like all decent subjects of the Habsburgs — József Cardinal Mindszenty and so many others included — Márai hated the Nazis and the communists who took their place with equal passion. Márai bore the inhumanity of the world that emerged silently but through his work. He finally emigrated to the United States and tragically decided to commit suicide at an advanced age in San Diego, CA. His immediate family at that point had no idea that he was one of the most important novelists of 20th century Central Europe! I cannot recommend more highly what precious little of his oeuvre has only recently been made available to English speakers, starting with the magisterial Embers.
Meanwhile let us not become too morose — but to revel in the sufficiently morose stylings Shane McGowan as he gives us the great WWI antiwar anthem (with brilliant video):7:27 pm on November 10, 2012 Email Daniel McAdams