It Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques Tardi

It Was the War of the Trenches
by Jacques Tardi
Fantagraphics, 2010

Another unsentimental fact-based account of life on the Western Front during WWI, this time from a French perspective. It begins in October 1917, in the trenches, and ends in November 19818, still in the trenches, and runs through several visceral yet world-weary anecdotes of death, violence, numbness and suffering. A bullet in the gut lead to a slow painful death, half of your trench-mate’s head might disappear at any instant, and the landscape is nothing but mud, barbed wire, and shattered towns. One of the stories briefly detours to 1914 and the optimistic, nationalistic start of the war, but apart from that it’s a relentless cycle with no beginning or end.

The horrors of war have been well documented over the millennia as a seemingly-inescapable human evil, and although WWI is distinguished even amongst 20th Century wars for its pointlessness, brutality and waste, its lessons are still relevant now. This typically excellent graphic novel by Tardi (first published in 1993) is without glamour, suffused instead with exhaustion and intimations of mortality.

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