Мартин Гал
Author: Martin Gale
Ukrainian writer
Liberal Arts
5 minutes for reading

ECHO OF WAR: voices of a Lost Generation

ECHO OF WAR: voices of a Lost Generation
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February 24, 2022 — is a day that changed not only the course of world history, but also the starting day of a new dimension of everyone’s destiny. We will never be the same again because terrible events entered our homes immediately and without a knock. All of us suddenly found ourselves in the jaws of death — inside the guillotine itself, and saw in the doorway the leper face of war in the form of a ruthless maniac and serial killer.

Now, we know and know no longer from books that the history of mankind is the history of wars and the consequences they bring to people’s lives. The rare exception in history is the generation that managed to live its life from birth to death without ever knowing the scourge of war.

Unfortunately, we, the current generation of Ukrainians, are not so lucky.

To understand what waits for us ahead, what psychological, moral, and physical problems await Ukraine and Ukrainians after the victory, we will go back a century and try to hear the echoes of the events of World War I and not only understand the peculiarities of what happened but also prepare for the new challenges of post-war life.

The writers of the «Lost Generation» will help us to do so.



There is a generation that has grown up to find all gods dead, all faith in man — violated


F. Scott Fitzgerald «This Side of Paradise» (1920)


The beginning of the 20th century was marked by unprecedented economic growth in the Western countries, and nothing seemed to portend trouble, but the summer of 1914 unleashed a terrible thunderstorm, marking the beginning of World War I.

A generation of young people from 38 countries at that time was involved in the first of the great tragedies of the XX century against their will and learned the whole nightmare of warfare.

Millions of people were killed and wounded, and tens of millions returned from the world slaughter with huge psychological problems — they could not adapt to a peaceful life, very often drinking, going mad, or committing suicide.

The generation of these people, born between 1883 and 1900, who had to personally participate in the First World War and, after its completion, experience the full horror of the problematic entry into post-war life, began to be called the «Lost Generation».

Writers who personally participated in World War I and then conceptualized its aftermath in their works were called «Lost Generation» writers.




You are all a lost generation


Gertrude Stein. The epigraph to Ernest Hemingway’s novel And the Sun Rises (1926)


When Ernest Hemingway, on September 21, 1925, wrote under the title of his first novel these two words — «Lost Generation», it is unlikely that he then suspected that he would give a name to a whole generation of people and mark an important milestone in the world literature of the first half of the XX century.

The epigraph accurately indicated the authorship of the term, although the true story of the appearance of this word combination was later described in detail by Hemingway in his book «The holiday that is always with you»:

«The old Model T Ford that Miss Stein drove in those years had something wrong with the ignition, and the young mechanic, who had been at the battlefront for the last year of the war and was now working in the garage, failed to fix it, or maybe he just didn’t want to fix her Ford out of turn. Whatever the case, he was not sérieux enough, and after Ms. Stein complained, the owner reprimanded him severely. Master said to him, «All of you are — génération perdue!» — That’s who you are! And that’s who you all are! — Ms. Stein said. — All young people who have been to war. You are — the lost generation».



This book is intended neither as an accusation nor as a confession but simply as an attempt to give an account of a generation that was destroyed by the war — even those of it who survived the shelling


Erich Maria Remarque, preface to the novel «All Quite on the Western Front» (1929)


Although the literature of the «Lost Generation» starts with John Dos Passos’s novel «Three Soldiers», which saw the light of day in 1921, the true success was the year 1929. Three of the greatest novels about World War I were published simultaneously: Remarque’s «All Quite on the Western Front», Richard Aldington’s «Death of a Hero», and «A Farewell to Arms!» by Ernest Hemingway.

All these books were accompanied by unprecedented reader success, and they deservedly made up the golden fund of literature of the «Lost Generation». Each of the authors had his own unique experience of war, but all together, they revealed the general tendencies of the impact on the human psyche of military actions, the complexity of entering a peaceful life, and described a new form of friendship, which is possible only at war.

All these emotions and thoughts of the participants of the events were heartfelt; the writers did not need to imagine someone else’s pain; no, all they had to do was to find such methods of writing that would not leave the reader unconcerned.

They succeeded a lot, but each did it in his own way.


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Erich Maria Remarque, who had the longest military experience, spending almost a year on the front lines in Flanders, was wounded five times and, after one of the wounds, miraculously survived. He focused his attention on describing the «inner kitchen» of war and the everyday features of trench life. He also very accurately described the phenomenon of frontline brotherhood, noting the subtleties that help worthily endure all the hardships of military life.

Remarque talks about the war in the first person, often with humor, describing not only how the heroes fight but also how they sleep, eat, and hang around without doing anything. Conversations between participants in the war and details of military life give a complete picture of events, depicting from the inside not only the facts of the attacks and bombings but also the psychological state of the characters.

Richard Aldington began his participation in World War I in 1916 as a private soldier, but later, he was promoted to officer in the British Army and fought on the Western Front. The war considerably changed his ideas about the world and significantly influenced his work. The novel «Death of a Hero» describes not only the negative consequences of war but also serves as a condemnation of militarism in any form.

Aldington deeply reveals the essence of false patriots who are ready to turn every person into a lump of dirt and for whom human life is an empty sound. The novel, striking scale, and tragedy describe in detail the process of formation of a man of the «Lost Generation», who, realizing the meaninglessness of future existence — outside the war — commits suicide, recognizing that his life is possible only inside the war, near the shoulder of a frontline friend, and life in peaceful reality is unthinkable because it is false, fake and lacks sincerity.

Aldington reveals the essence of the «Lost Generation», which is not only filled with hatred towards the war but also has an attachment to it, because of which normal entry into civilian life without psychological discomfort is impossible.

The theme of the «Lost Generation» is revealed by Ernest Hemingway both in his debut novel «The Sun Also Rises» and in his main anti-war work, «A Farewell to Arms!». The theme of the novel is that of love during war: fragile and doomed. The hero defends his ancestral right — the right to life.

He becomes a deserter, puts aside his sense of duty, and thus protests against the war, choosing life and love. His disillusionment with such concepts as «valor», «heroism», and «feat» is not a loss of faith in the war propaganda that led him to the world slaughter — it is a global sense of the absurdity of existence, the extreme form of which is war itself.

In the preface to the reissue of his novel «A Farewell to Arms!» in 1948, Ernest Hemingway expressed prophetic thoughts that are in tune with the soul of every Ukrainian: «Those who fight in the war — the most wonderful people, and the closer to the front line, the more wonderful people you meet there; but those who start, incite and wage war — pigs, thinking only that it can make profit. I believe that all those who benefit from the war and who contribute to its incitement should be shot on the first day of hostilities by the trusted representatives of honest citizens of their country whom they send to fight».




It is no coincidence that they are called the «uncounted victims of war». People who received not only physical but also psychological injuries from the mere fact of participation in the war. It is now quite difficult to say how many Ukrainians will join their number. And whether we will be able to avoid the emergence of a «Lost Generation» of the XXI century in Ukraine is an open question.


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