The Lost Generation: some reflections upon "A Moveable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway

«You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason».
Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast (Chapter 4, People of the Seine)

Each epoch has to face its lost generation, it seems an unwritten historical rule. Inventor of this popular definition is the famous writer Ernest Hemingway, referring to the European and American youngs who have come of age during the World War One. Hemingway loaded the expression in the epigraph to his first novel Fiesta and then in his well known book of memories, A Moveable Feast.
In Hemingway’s pages “lost generation” marks the inability of the young survivors to become part of the society, serving it usefully and actively. It was the strict and indifferent position of the "fathers". This point of view carries an ethical opinion that Hemingway discussed and refused. In his idea, running the different human ages, no group can assume the role of critic, judging the other generations, above all attacking the youngs.
Staring at a new kind of struggle that was going on to shake the after war Occidental societies, the great novelist felt compelled to evidence the controversy, defending all the youngs who lived the big drama at the front.
But there’s another declination of Hemingway’s tag. A lost is something that never comes back. Talking about soldiers are the ones who were defeated by death. Many eminent artists and intellectuals disappeared, as Franz Marc, Umberto Boccioni, Egon Schiele, the sculptor Raymond Duchamp-Villon, brother of Marcel Duchamp, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, killed by the 1918 flu pandemic – the corpse was discovered at home by his friend and colleague Giuseppe Ungaretti – the anthropologist Robert Hertz, scholar of Émile Durkheim, killed in action (April, 1915) while volunteering for active service. And it’s just only a sample list.
Such a situation reminds us of the shock for the Black Death, when human and cultural energies were destroyed by the virulent plague of 1348. Each perturbant and large scale spreading event, has an  impact on a society and it’s destinated to prolong the effects.

A selection of Italian World War One songs (and a book about the Italian war)

Today the buzz around World War One and its Centenary is all for Italy entering the war. It was exactly a century ago on the 24th of May. It's propably silly to live today this remembrance time frame as a repetition of what happened one hundred years before. At the end of day, it's the logic of mass and social media mixed with the one of celebration or commemoration. We're not saying that all commemorations or celebrations are pointless, otherwise we should rapidly admit that even this site is totally meaningless (on the other side we're not praising it, but we believe that at least some contents that we post from here can make sense). So what to do in such a day from our outpost? Basically we think we can suggest two things. The first is a book by Gian Enrico Rusconi. Its title is L'azzardo del 1915. Come l'Italia decide la sua guerra ("The Hazard of 1915. How Italy Decided Its Own War"), a compelling and detailed analysis of ten months of Italian neutrality and about all the whirling games of the diplomatic corps. As far as we know, this book has not been translated into other languages. We strongly support its translation in case people are really interested in understanding the role of Italian neutrality and the meaning of the breakage of the alliance between Italy and the Central Powers.

Secondly, for this day that gave the name to many streets in Italy, we were thinking to offer a selection of Italian First World War songs. People around the world, when asked about Italian people and what they can do, they usually say or think that they are good at singing (like many others are). The one below is just a selection of some popular war songs like the ones that all belligerent countries had. A site where you could grab some interesting *.mp3 of Italian songs is this "repository". Our selection of today includes only six of these.

"Sand to Snow: Global War 1915". Interview with Doran Cart, Senior Curator at the National World War I Museum

Q: Special Exhibition "Sand to Snow: Global War 1915". Where does the exhibition concept come from?
A: When we were discussing how to observe the Centennial of WWI we decided that each year from 2014-2019 would feature critical events of each year. When I arrived at the idea for 1915 of a truly global war by that time with the entries of Italy and Bulgaria and with the contributions of neutral nations like the USA and Spain and the world-wide setting for battles and other actions, it was a natural fit.

Q: I was thinking about the title you chose. It seems that geography is a preeminent driver in this title. Do you confirm this also for the exhibition project and layout?
A: The title Sand to Snow reflects the physical geography and environments of the globe where the war was taking place, but also an example of where this occurred in a small area like Gallipoli where there was sand and also blizzards within the period of 1915.  Also I wanted to feature nations not normally discussed.

Q: Could you say something about the layout of "Sand to Snow: Global War 1915"?
A: There are eight exhibit cases and each deals with a different front from the Western Front to the African Front. There is no chronological layout so the visitor can explore the years through each of the case studies.

Q: Your attention is on the "special year" 1915 and both on belligerent and neutral countries. What's interesting while analyzing the case of neutral countries and what does the exhibition point out in their cases?
A: Even though the United States was technically neutral in 1915, support for the Allies was ongoing. While many did not support any efforts to aid the Allies or even think about going to war, the Preparedness Movement in the U.S. started in 1915 with the Plattsburgh training camp. Theodore Roosevelt and Leonard Wood were the principle proponents of this movement. 

In the summer of 1915, under pressure from the National Security league and other patriotic groups, the War Department opened a training camp in Plattsburg, New York, where regular Army officers prepared the sons of well-to-do businessmen, at the trainees’ expense, to become future officers in the event of war. 1200 young men attended that first summer. There was a preparedness camp for women at the Women’s National Service School Camp near Washington, D.C.

Americans almost immediately volunteered for humanitarian and military service primarily with the Allies after the war broke out. They volunteered as ambulance and truck drivers, as hospital workers, as doctors and nurses. They crossed into Canada and received military training and were sent to Europe to fight under Allied flags. Americans joined the French Foreign Legion.

The connections between Belgium and the United States in World War I began long before America became a combatant and continued after the Armistice. Almost immediately after the war started, relief and volunteer organizations were created to provide food and other means of support for the people of occupied Belgium.

Switzerland’s neutrality, while stated in the Treaty of Paris of 1815, was more substantiated by its traditional position as the “Good Samaritan of the nations.” The Federal Council had issued a Declaration of Neutrality in August, 1914 that the country was “firmly resolved to depart in no respect from the principles of neutrality so dear to the Swiss people.” With Italy’s entrance into the war in 1915, all of Switzerland’s borders were surrounded by belligerents.

Switzerland did care for refugees, assist in prisoner exchanges and in 1915 placed at the disposal of the belligerents the services of the Swiss Red Cross. Even though Switzerland maintained a defensive force, it did not represent a threat to her neighbors. Military service was compulsory for men aged 20 to 48 years old. In 1915, the Swiss Army numbered around 200,000 men.

Lusitania paper weight
Spain was neutral as far as being an active combatant in the war, but by 1915 Spanish arms manufacturers, especially in the Eibar region were major suppliers of weapons, especially pistols and revolvers. France, Italy and Great Britain purchased a large number of weapons from Spain. The most popular pistol was the variant of the Colt 1903 Pocket Auto in 7.65mm. They were sold under many names including the “Lusitania.”

The Netherlands remained neutral throughout the war, but the war affected the country in many ways including their economy and making plans for the defense of her borders. Hundreds of thousands of Belgian refugees sought safety in the Netherlands.

The RMS Lusitania was a British ocean liner built in 1906 and owned and operated by the Cunard Company. Lusitania sailed on her maiden voyage out of Liverpool, England on 7 September 1907 and arrived in New York, United States, on 13 September.  On 7 May 1915, Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by the U-20, sinking in 18 minutes.  Of the, 1960 people on board, 768 survived and 1,192 perished.

Lusitania was carrying a number of Americans, women and children and citizens from other neutral countries including Mexico, Spain, Brazil and Sweden. It also carried war materiel including rifle and machine gun cartridges. The sinking of the Lusitania and resulting deaths of civilians and neutral nationals aboard the ship is considered one of the first modern examples of “total war” and a turning point in World War I.

Australian uniform and equipment
Q: Could you also anticipate other initiatives coming from National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial for the upcoming Centennial years? Thanks for your time.
A: The Museum will have several additional special exhibitions during the course of the Centennial. In July, the Museum opens a special exhibition featuring a large collection of Australian War Art, currently on display at the Australian Embassy in Washington, D.C. In May 2016, the Museum will debut another special exhibition called “They Shall Not Pass: The Somme and Verdun.” That will be followed in 2017 with “Change the World: America Goes to War” and “Posters as Munitions.” In 2018, we will debut “The Human Record of War” and “Art and World War I.” In addition to the special exhibitions on display at the Museum, we have also curated online special exhibitions during the Centennial. To date, the Museum has launched  three interactive online special exhibitions: War Fare: From the Homefront to the Frontlines, The Christmas Truce, Winter 1914 and Home Before the Leaves Fall.

(We would like to thank Mike Vietti, Marketing & Communications Manager at the National World War I Museum, for his precious help in collecting this interview)

"Neutrals at war, 1914-1918. Comparative and transnational perspectives" (CfP)

Source: Legacy Americana
What about neutral countries in World War One? In this month, May 2015, Italy will probably remember one hundred years after the beginning of its war (May 24). This means that for Italy the war begins after ten months of neutrality. It's quite a long time. All people having even a small familiarity with the Italian history know about the never ending debate between interventionism and neutrality. Beside the extremely singular case of Italian neutrality period in 1914 and early 1915, what could we say about countries like Switzerland, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands? Which was the role of Albania and who remembers the point dedicated to Albanian territory in the Treaty of London of 1915?  What did being neutral mean in the first global war? There are several questions that could rise around the status of neutrality after the escalation of war declarations coming after July 1914. The Call for Papers we recommend today is about these and many other aspects (the first deadline for abstracts is 15 June 2015).

See here for the complete text of the Call for Papers.

The journals of the trenches: an Italian gallery

Born during World War One, the Italian trench journasl were items distributed to the army. In a first time they’re written in war zones and circulated through battalions and regiments. No signs of propaganda and patriotism are noted. Only you can find a light satire tolerated by military authority. Most important themes were treated in humoristic, recreative, cultural tone, in any case adapted to each context. Readers’ circle was extremely limited, considering the lack of resources and, in consequence, the low run. It not seldom caused the lost of these rare exemplares. Later, in every country, journals gained attention from authorities and Italian army, for its part, decided to encourage this activity. Run and readers increased, even because the delivery was planned togheter with private correspondence. The articles became a strategic instrument for propaganda: their task consisted in supporting troop’s mood.

If we look at the Italian front, we can see an increase of publications after the Battle of Caporetto (October 1917). In that period is established the so called service P (P stands for propaganda) which curated many aspects bound to media.In spite of a stronger attention, a complete view of such extended phenomenon is very hard to achieve. Infact the item kept its original volatility. Something similar you can meet on the opposite front under Austrian Command: the «Tiroler Soldaten-Zeitung» directed by the famous writer Rober Musil from 1916 to 1917. However it was an anomalous experiment compared to the standards of this kind of publications, because had a weekly issue and counted about 20-22 pages. Some main collected titles at the Library of Resurgence Museum in Bologna are: "La tradotta", "La Trincea", "La Ghirba", "Signor sì", "Il Razzo", "Il Montello", "Il San Marco", "Sempre Avanti", "La 50a divisione" and "La Giberna".

We want also introduce some Italian projects and multimedial useful spaces to deepen this matter. Francesco Maggi, blogger and scholar from Genoa, has written for his website many detailed articles on different reviews of the period. Each journal is object of well-curated analyses and long commentaries. A link is here. Then we suggest to visit the this link where you find a list of many reproductions of the originals. Finally, don’t forget to enter the website of the aforementioned Resurgence Museum in Bologna – WW1 section is here – a necessary guide to this fascinating war publishing planet. Last but not least we could end suggesting a contribution, namely "I giornali di trincea", in Da Caporetto a Vittorio Veneto by Fiorella Bartoccini (Trento, Arti Grafiche Saturnia, 1970).