Summer at war

by Radio Somewhere

To mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, BBC Radio 3 broadcast a series of essays entitled Minds At War. I have been listening to the podcasts on the way to work.

Yesterday I heard the piece about Edith Wharton’s journalistic account of her experiences in France at the time. I had my Nook with me, so when I stopped for coffee after getting off the bus, I looked up Fighting France in my Collected Works of Edith Wharton. (This is why I love having an e-reader! I have a mini library in my bag wherever I go!)

In the opening chapter, Wharton describes Paris enjoying the last few hours of peace in the perfect weather of a late July day — the kind of weather Seattle enjoys at this time of the year. It’s hard not to be haunted by the mood she evokes. Perhaps the tension I personally experience in the summer is connected somehow — as though perfect summer weather is just a cruel distraction from the impending calamity that is about to turn the world upside down.

One hundred years on: and even though the last of the veterans are probably dead; and Germany finished paying off its war debt a few years ago — it still strikes me that this war is not truly over — not yet.

“The war to end all wars” was only the beginning, perhaps — and the reminder of that haunts me on these perfect summer days of July.