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Telling World War I and the Influenza in 1922

  100 years ago, in 1922, people on both sides of the Atlantic were gradually recovering from the shocks of the First World War and the Great Influenza (also known as the Spanish Flu, referring to the global flu from 1918 to 1920), which profoundly changed the world and the world. Personal events are finally being spoken out in literature: the first novel to write about a pandemic emerges in the United States—Wera Cather’s One of Ours, which compares the pandemic with “World War I” Mixed together, it reproduces the tyranny of the flu on the American expeditionary troop transport; British writer DH Lawrence’s novella “The Fox” (The Fox) is also serialized on the modernist literary position “The Dial” (The Dial), telling the story The love and sorrow of soldiers returning home after World War I during the pandemic; and the Austrian writer Stephen Zweig, who was in various torrents after the war, also published his masterpiece “Letter from a Strange Woman” in the same year (Brief einer Unbekannten), the strange woman in the story and her son both died of the flu. So, how do these three literary works, published in the same year, tell the story of “World War I” and the Great Influenza?
  ”One of Us” incorporated the pandemic into the “World War I” narrative as a prologue to the war. The protagonist, Claude, was originally a farm youth in Nebraska. He dropped out of college and had no love in his marriage. The “World War I” rekindled the fire of his life. When he returned from boot camp to visit family, he was proud of the admiration from the train passengers, “like the homecoming hero in “The Odyssey”. In the summer of 1918, on the troop transport ship “Anchises”, the flu was raging. As an assistant to the military doctor, he helped to gather patients, record names and body temperature, and scrub patients’ bodies with alcohol. In the face of the surging death, he showed precocious composure, because he had acquiesced in the “wasting in the grand plan” of war.
  The superposition of plague and war in the novel echoes the flashing classical colors from time to time, and together point to the Western classical plague writing tradition, making the characters quietly acquire the aura of “heroes”. For example, the name of the troop carrier “Anchises” is a member of the royal family of Troy in ancient Greek legends and the father of Aeneas. In Virgil’s “Aeneid”, Anchises once led the Trojans. Go to Crete to build a city, but had to stop because of a sudden plague. This narrative of plagues, wars and heroes also appears in Homer’s Iliad. At the beginning, the plague “sends many strong and strong souls of warriors to the underworld”, forcing Agamemnon to return the daughter of the priest of Apollo, and then occupying the woman of the hero Achilles, arousing the latter’s anger and not fighting, causing Troy. Changes in battle. Similarly, the history book “History of the Peloponnesian War” also describes the overlap between plague and war – the city of Athens suffered a tragic plague during the war, and the population was reduced by one-third, which made the Delian League in the subsequent wars. in passive. In addition, in Sophocles’ tragedy “Oedipus the King”, the plague in Thebes opened the prelude to the tragedy of Oedipus, heralding the hero’s subsequent “discovery” of his own flaws.
  This intertextual reference to the classical plague writing tradition of the West means that Kaiser aims to sing the praises of the expedition and to shape the heroes. In fact, her motivation for writing is largely due to her genuine admiration. Cather’s cousin, 2nd Lt. Grosvenor Perry Cather, who served in the famous U.S. 1st Infantry Division, died heroically in 1918 at the Battle of Condigny, France. The New York Times once reported on his heroic deeds: “With extraordinary courage and composure he climbed the trench wall, was exposed to seven German machine guns, and led two teams of automatic rifles into a devastating flank attack. “On the day of the Armistice Day of the First World War, Cather wrote a special letter to his aunt who had lost his beloved son, praising his cousin’s glory and greatness as consolation.

“One of Us” by Willa Cather

  If the tyranny of “World War I” and the pandemic in “One of Us” set off the glory of life, then in “Fox”, this tyranny has not created a sincere and beautiful love. The story takes place at the end of “World War I”. Henry, a British soldier on leave, returns to the farm where he lived before the war and finds that the new owners are two girls – Madge and Bamford. At that time, people in the town “all got the flu”, and this remote farm was like an enclave, isolating the virus and trapping people who might have been forgotten after a brief encounter. Similar to the cholera in Marquez’s writings that erected a barrier for love on a ship that could not be docked, the flu in “Fox” also cut off the possibility of leaving, confining Henry and Madge in a fixed space, making it impossible for them to leave. Love is fermented. On Henry’s side, although Lawrence did not write, the bloody “World War I” constituted the deep motivation of his eagerness to return home and set up a new home. She ran a farm during the war, and shouldered the farming tasks that were once monopolized by men, such as hunting and felling trees. When the end of the “World War I” brought men back, her desire for men also quietly recovered.
  However, although March wants to hold hands with Henry, her friendship with Bamford, her best friend, is difficult to break up. So, in order to marry Maggie, Henry took leave from the army and went to the battlefield with Bamford to “snatch” Madge. In the end, seemingly unintentionally but with great effort, he killed the latter with a felled tree, thus successfully occupying the latter. Madge. Clearly, violence, a legacy of World War I, became the primary means by which soldiers resolved conflicts. But how can such a lavish marriage be happy? The marriage that once made them yearn for incomparable became their common cage. It can be said that the pandemic accompanied by death made love seem precious and rich, but love encountered the violent backlash of the legacy of “World War I”.

Gravestone of Lieutenant Grosvenor Perry Cather

  To a certain extent, the pandemic in “Fox” and the support and destruction of love in “World War I” allude to Lawrence’s own plight. Lawrence’s wife Frida was German, and the end of World War I brought her a sense of relief and brought joy to their marriage. But the good times didn’t last long. In the autumn and winter of 1918, when “Fox” was created, the relationship between the two continued to deteriorate. Frida was reluctant to meet her husband in London under the pretext of the threat of the pandemic. . In mid-February 1919, the writer contracted the flu, and his symptoms were so severe that his doctor was worried that he “couldn’t get through it.” And just like Ursula, who hates disease in “Women in Love”, Frida lacked sympathy and unwillingness to take care of him who was seriously ill, and the relationship between the two fell to a freezing point, Lawrence once wrote in a letter to a friend. , “If this disease is not a lesson for her, it is for me”, and he even wants to “slap Frida in the face when he is strong enough”.
  If the First World War and the pandemic in “Fox” distorted love, in Zweig’s pen they mean the end of love. With the help of letter form, Zweig tells the secret love of a strange woman from the age of 13 to the writer R, who once lived in the opposite door, from a first-person perspective in “Letter from a Strange Woman”. The two sides of this love story are like the flowing wind and the still tree, forming a contrast between the changing and the unchanging. The writer is always surrounded by changing female partners, while the woman is unswerving, even if the other party is in a few short-lived romantic encounters. Even though she has to overcome all kinds of difficulties to give birth to her and the writer’s children. But the pandemic ended everything, not only this unforgettable unrequited love, but also the lives of strange women and their children. At the beginning of the letter, the woman told the writer that her son had just died of the flu and that she had contracted it herself. If the letter was successfully sent, it meant that she had died. Written between 1919 and 1921, the novel, which the strange woman said was “spreading from house to house”, was a clear reference to the Spanish flu.

  At that time, Zweig returned to Austria, but the “World War I” had shattered the mountains and rivers, and the imperial power that once seemed to last forever was gone forever. In rush and upheaval. In his autobiography “The World of Yesterday” (1942), Zweig recalled the scene in 1919 when he saw the emperor and the queen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire abandon their country, and sighed at the glorious Habsburg for thousands of years. The collapse of the dynasty, and although the road ahead is uncertain, the wheel of the times has been unstoppably heading into the future.

“Letter from a Strange Woman”

  This future will definitely be different from the “world of yesterday”, people will inevitably be frightened and hesitant, but there is also no lack of revolutionary passion, and countless changes and possibilities will be brewed in the accumulation and collision, as Zweig wrote: “The post-war generation Suddenly, he broke free of all the rules that had worked so far, deviates from any tradition, took his destiny in his own hands, got rid of all the old things, and rushed into the future in one fell swoop. In all areas of life, a completely new The world, a very different order begins with this generation.” This wave of innovation has swept across art, literature, music, theatre and even politics. The French writer Henri Barbusse launched the “Clarity Movement”, which aimed “to unite the intellectuals of all Europe in a spirit of reconciliation”. Zweig, with a vision for the new world, actively participated in it as one of the leaders of the German group. However, the sport gradually became more extreme, slowly violated its original intention, and soon came to an end. It was against such a turbulent background that he created “Letter from a Strange Woman”, and in the story, the constant love that was ended by the pandemic is like that of Anru that ended in “World War I” in reality. The rocky world of yesterday reflects the writer’s profound feelings about the modern torrent fueled by “World War I” and the pandemic.
  In 1922, literary circles on both sides of the Atlantic began to tell the story of “World War I” and the Great Influenza at the same time. American readers were moved to tears by the classical sublime evoked by “One of Us”, and they were awarded the Pulitzer Prize; Europe on the ruins of the “World War I” speaks of inextricable melancholy in literature, because love withers and yesterday is no more. The difference here may not be difficult to understand. “World War I” is like a watershed. The strength of Europe and the United States is changing and growing. While triumphant, the pain is difficult to heal. But history has always been twists and turns, and 14 years later, Willa Cather said, looking back, “The world was divided in two in 1922.” Years later, it is less high-pitched and more muffled. From this point of view, 1922, which tells about “World War I” and the pandemic, seems to constitute a singularity in the history of literature, concentrating events and accelerating thinking.

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