The Reading Room

Waiting for The Praetorians

Jean Lartéguy’s classic book….

larLast December I wrote enthusiastically of the imminent release by Penguin Classics of the reprint of Jean Lartéguy’s novel The Praetorians. Having secured a copy of The Centurions, part one, if you will, of his two war books I could not wait for Amazon to send me this follow-up.

And I waited, and waited. Nine months later Amazon told me they were waiting on a release date some three months after the publisher announced it on their website. My second sense told me to check Ebay and lo and behold there it was, in print and available.

Now at last, I have it. Set in France and Algeria in May 1958 it picks up where The Centurions left off, full of the politics of the era, the ethics of war and counterinsurgency, the brotherhood of a war-ravaged band of paratroopers and how the war in Algeria and Vietnam tore divides through French society and relationship between its civilians and returning soldiers.

But despite the wait I cannot start reading it yet! Wanting a dose of French warfare I opted for Louis-Ferdinand Céline’s classic 1932 novel Journey to the End of the Night. Whilst only a few pages in it must surely have been a great inspiration for Lartéguy with it’s autobiographical description of the Great War and the sheer despair of its soldiers. Both authors take the reader on an unforgettable account of conflict, the brutality and suffering in both the immediate and post-war setting.

Quite how any soldier would volunteer after reading these is hard to fathom.


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