29/04/2010

THROWBACK THURSDAY - REGENERATION by PAT BARKER (1991)

For this event hosted by Jenny at TakeMeAway this week, I've chosen this historical novel set in WWI  by Pat Barker, Regeneration (1991). Throwback Thursday is a  corner to write about good reads from the past. Those books we so much loved and we don't want to forget .

Survivors

No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're "longing to go out again,"--
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk,
They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,--
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride ...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.
(CRAIGLOCKART,Oct. 1917)

This poem was written at Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh, by one of the most influential war poets. It describes the young men he met there, the patients of that mental asylum.

Regeneration, Pat Barker's first novel in her Great War trilogy, is a work of historical fiction focusing on Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland in 1917.
Though Barker traces her interest in World War I back to her early childhood, she attributes the immediate inspiration for Regeneration to her husband, a neurologist, who was familiar with Dr. W.H.R. Rivers's experiments on nerve regeneration in the early twentieth century.

POETS AT WAR
At least three of the novel's characters are based on real individuals who knew each other while they were at Craiglockhart. Siegfried Sassoon, a soldier and famous poet, protested the war in 1917, and for this, he was sent to the mental hospital. Wilfred Owen, perhaps the most famous war poet of his era, was also at Craiglockhart, and was greatly influenced by his older and more experienced fellow patient, Sassoon. Dr. W.H.R. Rivers, a scientist known originally for anthropological studies, served as a psychiatrist at the hospital for a short period near the end of the war; nevertheless, his influence on Sassoon was substantial. Sassoon mentioned or referred to Rivers in several publications after his "treatment." Although Barker bases her characters on real individuals, her work is a fictional account of the period they spent together at Craiglockhart.

Sigfried Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart for his declaration against the war, in order  to escape being courtmarshalled. His words open Pat Barker's first chapter of Regeneration (1991):

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation. I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed. On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the contrivance of agonies which they do not, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.

(Plot summary HERE)

(Wilfred Owen)
FROM THE BOOK TO THE MOVIE
At Craiglockhart hospital, Sassoon met Wilfred Owen who loved poetry but didn't dare write about the horrors he had experienced in the trenches. Owen  was convinced poetry had nothing to do with the ugliness of the war. Sassoon suggested him to write war poems and Owen started doing it just in that military hospital. This is how Gillies Mackinnon (director) imagined their meeting in  1997  adaptation of Pat Barker's novel.


(Watch the video Owen meets Sassoon on my Utube Channel)

REGENERATION   is a beautiful war movie with excellent actors as well as Pat Barker's omonymous novel is one of the best fiction work about WWI I've ever read. Before leaving you with another clip from the film, in which the director imagines the composition of Owen's DULCE ET DECORUM EST at Craiglockhart, let's read the famous poem again:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.



3 comments:

Katrina said...

I hadn't heard of Throwback Thursday, a great idea. I read Pat Barker's The Eye in the Door recently but didn't like it as much as Regeneration. I'm hoping to get around to The Ghost Road soon.

servetus said...

Have not seen the move, but LOVE her novels.

Judy said...

Very interesting - I really like both Sassoon and Owen's war poetry, so should really get round to reading this, as I've been meaning to do so for ages! I'd also like to see the movie.