Friday, August 25, 2017

OUTSIDE VERDUN






This is a book I can only describe as the Discordian Read Of the Year!  I later found out this is part of a tetralogy by Arnold Zweig called The Great War Of The White Men, but this novel (ISBN 978-1908754523) stands very well on its own...And after that my thoughts trail off in confusion and I HARDLY KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN.  Let me think a minute here.

The story is nominally about the accidental meeting of a young attorney named Werner Bertin, who's serving at the front lines, with another young soldier named Kroysing, who asks him a favor.  Kroysing is killed the next day, before Bertin can do what he's been asked to do.  From there the story really picks up steam when Bertin meets Kroysing's older brother, who wants to ask Bertin a much bigger favor.  I'm not going to ruin the story for you, but it's basically all about private battles waged against the backdrop of the massive, devastating Battle of Verdun.  In real life, Verdun claimed 262,308 lives, and the story is essentially a race to see if Bertin and the elder Kroysing can do what the dead brother needs them to do before they, too, are vaporized by artillery.

NEVER FORGET that the Great War is the one that brought us surrealism, Dada and all the other artistic forms that deliberately introduce CHAOS and CONFUSION into forms previously characterized by ORDER.  To give a couple of examples, e.e. cummings served in this war, as did the great Discordian Scribe Saki, who died at Beaumont-Hamel, one of the many, many casualties of the Battle of the Somme.

And over here on the other side of the war is Arnold Zweig, talking about their attempts to protect something he keeps referring to as a Pentagon -- the Discordian symbol of Order -- while his characters juggle yellow apples that fell off a tree, for Pete's sake -- the Discordian symbols of Chaos.  This book was originally published in 1933, more than 20 years before Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill had the bowling-alley vision of the Goddess of Chaos that introduced them to the Sacred Chao:



To my astonishment, square in the middle of the book, one of the characters quotes the Assassin's Creed, one of the best-beloved catch phrases of Discordians everywhere:


"Nothing is true.  Everything is permitted."

After that, my brain just trails off into bewildered silence, you know?

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