The poets and the world war: "Si je mourais là-bas" by Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 - 1918)
A new English translation of the poems by Guillaume Apollinaire was published at the end of 2015 by Oxford University Press. The title of the book is Selected Poems, (with parallel French text) translated with an Introduction and Notes by Martin Sorrell (you see the cover below, in the middle of this post). Among these poems, a relevant group of compositions belongs to the war time and is about the love story with Louise deColigny-Châtillon. It's the second time we choose a poem by Apollinaire. The first one dates back to this old post. Particularly meaningful, also in the study of the war months, is the correspondance between Apollinaire and Lou.


If I died up there at the front
One day Lou my love you'd weep
And my memory would fizzle out
The way a shell-burst dies at the front
A lovely shell like mimosa in flower

And then that memory that bursts in space
Would cover the globe in my blood
The sea the hills the valleys and the flying star
The marvellous suns that ripen in space
Like golden fruit round Baratier*

Forgotten memory alive in all things
I'd redden the nipples of your pretty pink breasts
I'd redden your mouth and your blood-soaked hair
You'd not age a jot all these beautiful things
Would forever grow younger ready for gallant destinies

My fatal blood splashing the world
Would give the sun more brilliance
Flowers greater colour waves more speed
A rare love would fall on the world
The lover would be stronger in your body pushed away

Lou if I die up there memory that gets forgotten
—Remember me in those mad moments
Of youth and love and bursting ardour—
My blood's the ardent fountain of happiness
And because you're the prettiest be the happiest

O my unique love and my grand folly

                                             30th January 1915 Nimes 

[From Guillaume Apollinaire, Selected Poems, with parallel French text, translated with an Introduction and Notes by Martin Sorrell, Oxford University Press] 


Si je mourais là-bas sur le front de l’armée
Tu pleurerais un jour ô Lou ma bien-aimée
Et puis mon souvenir s’éteindrait comme meurt
Un obus éclatant sur le front de l’armée
Un bel obus semblable aux mimosas en fleur

Et puis ce souvenir éclaté dans l’espace
Couvrirait de mon sang le monde tout entier
La mer les monts les vals et l’étoile qui passe
Les soleils merveilleux mûrissant dans l’espace
Comme font les fruits d’or autour de Baratier

Souvenir oublié vivant dans toutes choses
Je rougirais le bout de tes jolis seins roses
Je rougirais ta bouche et tes cheveux sanglants
Tu ne vieillirais point toutes ces belles choses
Rajeuniraient toujours pour leurs destins galants

Le fatal giclement de mon sang sur le monde
Donnerait au soleil plus de vive clarté
Aux fleurs plus de couleur plus de vitesse à l’onde
Un amour inouï descendrait sur le monde
L’amant serait plus fort dans ton corps écarté

Lou si je meurs là-bas souvenir qu’on oublie
– Souviens-t’en quelquefois aux instants de folie
De jeunesse et d’amour et d’éclatante ardeur –
Mon sang c’est la fontaine ardente du bonheur
Et sois la plus heureuse étant la plus jolie

Ô mon unique amour et ma grande folie

                                               30 janv. 1915, Nîmes

"Wacht im Osten: German Encounters with the East in World War I". Special exhibition opens Oct. 25 at National World War I Museum and Memorial

Press release:

 German soldiers excavating a Japanese 28 cm. siege howitzer near Grodno; 
a munitions or spare parts crate sitting to the side.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When the German army advanced into the western territory of the Russian Empire in the spring and summer of 1915, soldiers encountered a physical and cultural environment quite different from what they previously encountered. Those experiences are told through the eyes of German soldiers in Wacht im Osten: German Encounters with the East in World War I, a new special exhibition at the National World War I Museum and Memorial.

As historian Vejas Liulevicius describes, the German soldier formed a “mindscape” of the vast, sparsely populated, underdeveloped, alien landscape in which he found himself—something conquered by armed force, but beyond his power to fully understand and control. This landscape challenged him with a psychological learning curve beyond his capacity as a soldier or administrator to comprehend a completely new environment.

Constantly aware of this, the German occupier coped with his disoriented feelings by scrutinizing his environment more thoroughly than he might have in more familiar surroundings. The Germans’ “mindscape” transitioned from being a way of understanding the physical nature of this environment to understanding how to interact with it and eventually subdue it, by constant guarded watchfulness.

 “This special exhibition is unique in that we share the stories and experiences of common soldiers tasked with overseeing the occupation of foreign lands,” said National World War I Museum and Memorial Archivist and Edward Jones Research Center Manager Jonathan Casey. “Through their own personal photographs and diary entries, we’re able to gain an understanding of everyday life for soldiers in those circumstances.”

Wacht im Osten (“Watch in the East”) explores this encounter between the German soldier and the land and people he found himself trying to understand. An example of this is the Belarusian village of Iwje, which is depicted using commercial photo postcards illustrating its diverse mix of religious cultures, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim.

“Through Wacht im Osten, we’re able to explore an aspect of the Great War not commonly examined broadly: what life was like for soldiers serving as occupiers in lands previously unfamiliar from a cultural and environmental standpoint,” said National World War I Museum and Memorial President and CEO Dr. Matthew Naylor.

 The exhibition’s narrative unfolds mainly through the stories of two German soldiers: Georg Oertel and Friedrich Volkmann. Oertel served as a medic in a field hospital in Poland and once helped deliver a farmer’s baby during the Christmas holiday. Volkmann was a father with two small children who served in the infantry in Poland and was killed there. They are experiences of two soldiers, far from home in a foreign land, caught up in war. 

Wacht im Osten is open from Oct. 25, 2016 – March 12, 2017 in the Ellis Gallery. 

The National World War I Museum and Memorial holds the most diverse collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and personal experiences of the war.

Media interested in covering any of the Museum’s offerings should contact Mike Vietti at 816-888-8122 or

About the National World War I Museum and Memorial
The National World War I Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. The Museum holds the most diverse collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and experiences of the war. The Museum takes visitors of all ages on an epic journey through a transformative period and shares deeply personal stories of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. Designated by Congress as America’s official World War I Museum and Memorial and located in downtown Kansas City, Mo., the National World War I Museum and Memorial inspires thought, dialogue and learning to make the experiences of the Great War era meaningful and relevant for present and future generations. To learn more, visit

"Representing the unrepresentable: the Great War". An international conference at University of Messina

Thanks to professor Pierandrea Amato for sharing with us the program of the coming international conference "Representing the unrepresentable: the Great War", 24-26 October 2016, University of Messina (for the PDF click here).


A special thanks to for sharing the below press release with World War I Bridges


(A SPECIAL Opening WEEK for the 3° edition OF THE FESTIVAL)

the artist ANA MROVLJE PROTAGONIST IN the international B#SIDE WAR festival

From October the 14th - to October the 22th, 2016 / Venice (Italy)

The B#SIDE WAR is an artistic and cultural festival of spread art, diffuse in 12 territories of Italy and Slovenia, thanks to artistic exhibitions and installations, performing, talks and conferences, researches and publications. The festival covers the area from the Mediterranean Sea to the Julian Alps, in addition, special events in Toronto (Canada), Kansas City (USA), Canberra (Australia), Verdun (France), Ieper (Belgium) and London (UK) take place every year.
Designed with the main scope of investigating the legacies that connect the First World War to our everyday life, the B#SIDE WAR project has then been devoted to the analysis of the relationship between the Human Being and the ‘900 conflicts, as well as to the examination of the kinship between our war past and the vision of the world we nowadays have. The third edition of the festival will takes place thanks to the artistic and curatorial work of several contributors belonging 39 different country: 68 artists from all round the world, 17 national museum directors, 25 researchers, a team of 25 cultural organizers.

Key themes for the third edition of the festival are: captivity, prisons, multi-vocal and poly-focal vision of history.
For the opening (called "Venice Stage"), the art direction has involved the international artists Ana Mrovlje, Manca Bajec and Dan Allon, which will inaugurate the third edition creating a week of intense and unique performative acts, interconnected by a common necessity of re-reading the war stories the artists have experienced on their skin (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in the Balkans), or the war stories of which they are heirs (the first and the second world war).
The Opening Week wants to involve the audience in exploring issues related to repression and inheritance of the conflict, entering into a contemplative space in which to undertake new interpretations and relive a necessary poly-focal and multi-vocal perception of war facts.

Ana Mrovlje, author of the installation Peacestool (Sit Down and Deal with War Inside of You), artist who studied as psychoanalyst, investigates something that is still part of our collective memory, lying in the subconscious and in everyone's inheritance: the lagacy of war. A chair shaped with 3000 bullet shells from the World Wars coming from different countries, appears as a witness of conflicts that with their echo nowadays are able in influencing other wars (as the Balkan conflict, of which the artist was a witness). The chair evokes also the path of introspective investigation that the artist pursued, sitting in the studio of her analyst every week, questioning herself about war from a chair. Putting the visitor in the centre of the artistic action, he becomes the protagonist of a war that takes place intimately in his/her mind and that becomes collective again in virtue of its “silent presence” in each of us.
The opening week will continue with the performance Witness Corner Marked by Manca Bajec: internationally renowned for her poetics and her research about the movement defined by James E. Young the ‘Counter-Monument’, the artist shows how contemporary art may act as an intruder, clarifying element for the grey areas of history writing. Witness Corner Marked focuses on the transmission and perceptions of multi-voice war stories (immaterial monuments of a collective past), feeding in this waya pluri-focal vision of history which still is a necessity today.
In a vacant space animated by floating voices, querying the memory of the past, sounds and objects become carriers of the experiences people endured in war. The visitor will share universal symbols and emotions, being a witness of individual moments that have never been “monumentalised”.

Than, the Israeli artist Dan Allon, who, in the performance All in Order Mr. General ponders upon the topic of repression, which is one of the principal instruments in the struggle for power. During the 7-day performance, the artist will step into the shoes of a dictator in captivity, imprisoned in a uneasy place, under everyone's eyes (being at the same time victim and executioner), creating a reverberation about some archetypal figures and re-elaborating the intense experience he lived as jailer in Kzioth (Israeli-Palestinian conflict).
Being aware of the relationship between the most powerful and the weakest in societies in war, the artist sheds a light on the complex relation between the military and civil world that are divided, so in wars of yesterday as today, by a very thin line. The performance concerns the complexity and the ambivalence of history, creating relationships and tensions with the visitor, starting from the asymmetric relation that binds the visitor to the prisoner.

Talk with the artists: saturday, october 15th, 6 PM (free entrance, booking is recommended)
Calle lunga San Barnaba (Dorsoduro), 2687, 30123 Venice, Italy +39 348-7768935
Press: +39 349-0526136

IoDeposito Ngo - Founded in 2009 with the aim of contributing tothe advancement of the cultural welfare and of the young people’s cultural well-being, IoDeposito NGO works nowadays on an international scale together with a network of partners from Italy and the World (Museums, Universities, Academy, Public Institutions). It has involved around 150.000 people in its projects (workshops, laboratories, cultural events, conferences, publications). Mostly, it has developed a unique expertise in the organisation of artistic and cultural events as well as in the research field dealing withthe theme of memories and legacies of the the World Conflicts.

"Lands of memory. International contemporary artists revealing war legacies". An exhibition in Vittorio Veneto (Italy)

b#side war festival presents:
lands of memory
international contemporary artists
revealing war legacies

vernissage invitation:
October, the 6th 2016 - Battlefield Museum in Vittorio Veneto (Italy) - 6 pm
(the exhibition will run until October, 25)
Cosima Montavoci - Vanitas - Site specific - 2016

An initiative by:
Museo della Battaglia Vittorio Veneto
CEDOS Grande Guerra
Regione Autonoma Friuli Venezia Giulia
Council of Europe/Conseil de l'Europe
Centenario Prima Guerra Mondiale 2014/2018
Imperial War Museum
The National WWI Museum and Memorial
In Flanders Fields Museum

Connecting images of the war time with contemporary works of art, opposed and united by the represented subject, the legacies of the First World War emerge, enlightening the places that were most intense battlefields. The exhibition shows how these territories have assimilated the tragic events of the War, consciously or unconsciously: the landscape, its natural elements and material objects (both organic and anthropized), have absorbed the grief. Burying and incorporating remains and memories, the soil have became an authentic physical body of the conflicts memory. The symbology of the natural elements is developed by contemporary artists in videos and installations, in a kind of prophetic way, not necessarily reassuring, decreeing the protagonism of the soil’s organicity, which is evoked as an element of protection and survival, but also of concealment and suffocation. 

Artists: Ilisie Remus, Claudio Beorchia, Nathalie Vanheule, Jane Glynn, Gordon Belray, Victoria Lucas, Cosima Montavoci, Luca Terenzi.

Fur further information:

Hollywood and American War (CfP)

Among the dozens of Call for papers that we monthly sift, this seems to be more attractive and promising than others. The deadline is approaching fast, so we invite you to take it into account. It's about all the American Wars (The Great War, World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Cold War, The First Gulf War and The Iraq War). 

A frame from Wings (1927) by William A. Wellman,
one of the first films to show two men kissing

Hollywood and American War
deadline for submissions:
November 1, 2016
full name / name of organization:
Andrew Rayment / Chiba University
contact email:

Call for papers
Hollywood and American War (Edited Collection)
Edited by Andrew Rayment and Paul Nadasdy
Contemporary Cinema (Brill) (tentative)
Submission deadline for abstracts (400-600 words): November 1, 2016

“Most men would rather die than think. Many do”. – Bertrand Russell

This edited collection will critique Hollywood representations of American war in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by providing critically substantial commentaries on films representative of each major conflict in which the U.S. Military has been involved. Covering films that depict The Great War, World War II, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Cold War, The First Gulf War and The Iraq War, Hollywood and American War will subject the notion that war films ought to be considered ʻthe war memorials of today’ to critical scrutiny. Topics may include (but are not limited to): memorialization and romanticism; memorialization and glorification; memorialization and silence; memorialization and appropriation; the ideology of memorialization; memorialization and power; memorialization and entertainment; memorialization and masculinity; memorialization and comedy; the aporia of memorialization.

Abstracts should include: 1. a proposal for the critique of a particular Hollywood film in relation to its status as a ʻwar memorial’ (or anti-memorial) of the war it depicts; 2. a short commentary of a particular scene from the proposed film that should illustrate both how it develops the themes, tropes, motifs (and so on) in the film as a whole and how it might relate to the broader topic of memorialization through film.

In the final submission, commentaries will vary in length depending on the run-time of the film under discussion but, as a rule of thumb, approximately 5,000 words of analysis will cover each hour of film.

The commentaries will be theoretically substantial but also accessible, written to engage both academics and the intelligent lay reader.

Novels of the Great War: "Three Soldiers" by John Dos Passos

Three Soldiers is one of two early novels that John Dos Passos (Chicago 1896 - Baltimore, 1970) wrote about his experience in the First World War. Precisely it is the second one, since the first is One Man's Initiation (1917). Three Soldiers was published in 1921 in New York by Doran (below is the cover of the first edition). The book tells the stories of three American soldiers while they train and prepare to travel to one of the main fronts of the "European" War, namely the French one. The three are Fuselli, an Italian American coming from San Francisco, Chrisfield, a farmer from Indiana and the talented Andrews, who studied at Harvard and that can be considered under many aspects as the author's alter ego. The three represent a significant "sampling" of the white America back at the time the country was facing the global conflict originated in the heart of Europe. In Three Soldiers different imaginaries clash in the sprockets of military life, in the bureaucracy, in the boredom and finally in the lies and in the carnage of war. The narrative device of Dos Passos aims to show the dehumanizing effects of war on the fear, on the instinct of rebellion and on the individuality of each of the protagonists, who move in a kind of triangulation and therefore give life to a "triple novel" in one.

Rather than a novel of the Great War, Thee Soldiers can be approached as a novel born within this new warfare, one of the first works of fiction that tries to catch the meeting and clash between America and Europe at a time when an European war turns into a global war. The three protagonists show very distinct psychological characterizations and to give life to one of the first effective portraits of the loneliness of the contemporary man, in that particular moment when two worlds - America and Europe – meet because of the war that starts a new era. It’s particularly interesting, in addition to the above mentioned psychological and linguistic characterizations of the protagonists, to fix what we could call the geography of the novel, as well as the first appearance of a new yet already well-shaped cinematic imagery, almost unique feature of the novel. [You can find the page that Project Gutemberg dedicated to Three Soldiers at this link, while the public domain audiobook is available here.]

Philosophy and the Great War. An interview with professor Pierandrea Amato

The below interview with Pierandrea Amato is dedicated to the Italian book La filosofia e la grande guerra ("Philosophy and the Great War", Mimesis, 2016) he recently edited with contributions of Luigi Alfieri, Alain Brossat, Giulio Maria Chiodi, Sandro Gorgone, Giuliana Gregorio, Gianluca Miglino, Giuseppe Raciti, Caterina Resta, Francesca Rizzo, Luca Salza and Pierandrea Amato himself. After many posts on literature, sociological and historical interpretation of the First World War we wanted today to give evidence to philosophy and its meeting with the global war of 1914-1918.

Q: Can we consider three different "philosophies": before, during and after the Great War? In other words and in order to keep the question simple, is there a philosophy that prepares to war, a philosophy that changes during the war years and a philosophy born in the battlefields?
A:It is certainly possible to establish a relationship between philosophy and the First World War, paying attention at the risk of a too simple determinism. Anyway it is true, as Gianluca Miglino (who teaches German Literature at the University of Messina) clearly demonstrates in his essay, that in Germany the philosophy of Erlebnis contributed – through a particular interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought – to create the cultural conditions for the beginning of the war. In this climate, for example, a philosopher like Troeltsch signed manifests pro-war. On the other hand, it is true (in the volume we remember Heidegger’s name) that the First World War creates a revolution of the philosophical grammar, giving to philosophy the task to elaborate the conjunction between thought and existence.

Q: Which is the main goal of this "composite" book about the philosophy and the Great War that you have curated?
A: First of all, the aim of the book is trying to demonstrate that the cultural problems, raised by the First World War, in occasion of its centenary, are extremely actual. In this sense, we would like to demonstrate that paradoxically nowadays the First World War is not the main object of historical knowledge. In particular, it was our intention to point out that the Great War opens one of cultural fundamental problems of the Twentieth century: how to think the unthinkable, namely the catastrophe.

Q: Could you mention the main philosophers and writers studied in the book and could you summarize their positions in front of the war?
A: It is notpossible for me now to summarize the different positions of philosophers and writers contained into the volume. But I can add that a lot of the authors( Benjamin, Breton, Freud, Thomas Mann, Tzara, Zweig, Heidegger, Croce e Gentile) are discussed starting from a precise point of view: how to tell, represent, think the horror of the end of an era?

Q: Which is according to you and all the contributors of this book the most relevant help that philosophy gives in the understanding of the reasons of the First World War and also in the understanding of what comes after?
A: The First World War is the apex of the triumph of modern industrialization and of State political hegemony. In this perspective, I will say that philosophy let us see that the Great War is, at the same time, the completion and the sunset of modern humanism. This means that it is not a kind of pathology, but the extreme and destructive expression of modern humanism.

Q: Any reading suggestion to go further with this topic of philosophy and the Great War? Thanks.
A: After the publication of the book, our research has expanded to the study of other disciplines (cinema, literature, photography, linguistic, archeology, geography). In purely philosophical field, compared to the authors discussed in the book, I would add only two other names: the 1918 first edition of Ernst Bloch’s Geistder Utopie and Paul Valery's considerations about the First World War (La crise d’esprit, 1919).