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August 20, 1944 - Image 6

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Michigan Daily, 1944-08-20

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Book Reviews-Original Prose Every Sunday


Journalist Presents a
GlorifiCateion of Russia

Ilya Ehrenburg. 356 pp. Alfred A.
Knopf. $3.00.
pering of Russia is a Russian
journalist's account of the first
thirteen months of Hitler's war
with Russia. Ehrenburg is famil-
iar to American readers as one of
the leading Soviet novelists, author
of The Love of Jeanne Ney and the
recent success The Fall of Paris. In
The Tempering of Russia he is no
more than a newspaperman, some-
times a war correspondent, some-
times an editorial writer, usually a
combination of both. In his own
words: "I became a journalist, only
a journalist, whose place is on the
firing line." Literary art is forgot-
ten for the sake of propaganda and
human interest. Ehrenburg is an
artist only occasionally an, almost.
The separate articles that make
up The Tempering of Russia are
collected from Ehrenburg's writ-
ings during the first German on-
slaught against Russia. They are
assembled in chronological order.
Together they tell a story of in-
credible Russian heroism and of
stupid, unfeeling German bestial-
Ehrenburg's incidents of the
heroic Russian defense are often
gripping and intense. The crimes
of the invaders are painted in
vivid, almost lurid, colors. As is
to be expected, the Russians and
the Germans are pictured as aul
white against all black, spotless
virtue and uncompromising val-
or opposed to irredeemable vil-
lainy and cowardice. Ehrenburg
seems to have found no Russians
failing their cause, no Germans
worthy of being called gallant
enemies. As a whole and as indi-
viduals, the Russians are good
and the Germans are bad. Ehr-
enburg bulwarks this generaliza-
tion with hundreds of incidents
of the war. We find Russians
destroying themselves to kill

more of the enemy, demolishing
their own bridges and buildings
to halt "the German," working
impossible hours to manufacture
the tools of war. We read of
Germans who list their triumphs
according to the food they steal,
who butcher women and chil-
dren, W'ho destroy the monu-
ments of Chopin, Voltaire, Rous-
seau and Tolstoy.
Taken in small quantities, The
Tempering of Russia, is still good
fare. Read it all at once, it can
become a monotonous parade of
the impossible heroics of Russian
Partisans and regular troops and
of the barbaric cruelties and crud-
ities of German soldiers. I am not
denying Ehrenburg's right to his
point of view, nor do ,I deny the
importance and the interest of his
anecdotes. I do, however, deplore
his lack of restraint and his me-
thodical compilation of very simi-
lar incidents. Ehrenburg might
have done well to find a few differ-
ent ways of saying the same thing.
DESPITE these occasional repe-
titions of the same theme,
The Tempering of Russia is usually
a very absorbing book and an im-
portant one as well, for its revela-
tion of the Russian soul under fire.
The Russians can take it, and they
can come back for more. Better
than that, they can come back to
Ehrenburg's book is a glorifica-
tion of Russia and of the Russians.
Fired not so much by political be-
lief but rather by love of their
native land and by their own in-
domitable will, the Russian people
are united as they never were be-
fore. Ehrenburg helps to explain
how and why the Russians are
fighting as they are. Certainly
there is something unusual and
exceptional going on when what
-was considered to be the greatest
army in history is, after more than
three years of war, back on its own
borders. The Tempering of Russia
helps to tell us why Germany is the
latest frontier of Hitler's army.

A War Novel
Casual Heroics in
'A Walk in the Sun'
A WALK IN THE SUN. Harry Brown.
Knopf. 187 pages. $2.641.
SOMEHOW it has become a max-
im among us that the classic
literature of our war cannot be
written until a cooling-off period
of peace has elapsed, but A Walk
in the Sun is proof to the con-
trary. It would be false to say that
this short novel is another War and
Peace, another Red Badge of Cour-
age, or even another Three Soldiers
because it is a masterpiece of an-
other sort.
One of its virtues is that its auth-
or does not, as so many modern
writers have done, turn himself in-
side out to be tough, bloody, and
obscene. Neither does he fall into
the opposite gutter of sentimental-
ity and what will, in a few years,
take on the tarnish of banal patri-
otism. He has written an unpre-
tentious story about men made
quite casually heroic by the cir-
cumstances of war and he has
done it as well as any writer I
know has done with any subject
Perhaps the key to this novel's
apparent perfection is its sus-
pense, although a ,review of its
plot does not answer why this
factor is of such force. The situ-
ation is simple enough: A plat-
oon has a particular minor but
hazardous assignment to do and
the book is the story of how it is
carried out.
In a sense Private Brown has
gone along a road sowed thick with
land mines and has avoided them
all. He might have pestered up
with a couple hundred pages of
flashback material about his char-
acters, or he might have put ro-
bot characters in and smeared
them with heroism, but without
going to either extreme he has
created exceptional characters
which are complete but not over
There is scarcely a book in exist-
ence that has nothing in it that
an industrious reviewer or critic
might not nose out and howl about,
and there are many excellent
books. The novel in question has
a paragraph-and maybe more-
that we could do without, but in
its entirely it is so nearly perfect,
both technically and from a pure-
ly reading standpoint, that it would
be a pretty small man who would
cite its infinitely minor flaws.

New Books of Poetry
By 'Benet and Rukeyser


#, .1

We extend to The Daily Staff our heartiest congrat-
ulations on the inauguration of their new literary ven-
ture. A long-felt need has been answered.
It has been our privilege to open our stock to the
reviewers and we hope_ we can continue this in the'yeatrs
to come.

Rose Benet. Knopf. 148 pp. $2.50.
BEAST IN VIEW. By Muriel Rukeyser.
Doubleday-Doran. 99 pp. .$2.00.
WILLIAM ROSE Benet's new
book of poems, subtitled A
Book of Poems in Wartime, is a
sincere, and sometimes passionate
"contribution to the war effort."
Its propagandic value is consider-
able; its value as poetry is slight.
Many of the poems in this vol-
ume have the timeliness and im-
mediacy of patriotic newspaper
verse and represent thevmajority
opinion in regard to the values for
which this war is being fought.
Benet as a poet says little to us
that news commentators and edit-
orialists have not already said.
For all his rhetoric about the hor-
ror of Bataan and Tarawa, he has
not looked deeply at the spiritual
horrors of war. His verse is facile
and marked by the technical vir-
tuosity which in the past has made
him an "interesting" poet rather
than an inspiring one.
Yet this is a book which will
satisfy those who believe that the
function of the poet inbwar-time is,
obviously, to write about the war
and write in such unequivocal
terms that it will justify the poet's
existence in a world at war and
convince G. I. Joe and Civilian
John Doe that poetry after all is
not entirely useless.
M URIEL Rukeyser's Beast in
View is the very antithesis
of Benet's collection and super-
ior to it in every way. For here
is poetry, not facile versifying,
and poetry that is tough-sinew-
ed and glittering-bodied. One
almost prefers Miss Rukeyser's
failures to the elder poet's easy
Miss Rukeyser is one of the most
richly endowed and provocative
poets of our time, and her growth
from book to book has. been con-
tinuous. The social consciousness
manifested in her first two books,
Theory of Flight and U. S. 1. has
matured into a social vision that
comprehends both the sickness of
the contemporary world and the
sources of its cure. The abstract-
ness of A Turning Wind, while
not entirely absent from the pres-
ent volume, is modified by utter-
ances more personal now than
they have been since Theory of
Flight. Never guilty of writing
Marxist propaganda, though avow-
edly a Marxist, Miss Rukeyser
seems now less concerned with
Anthology Is_
Too Limited
hensive View of Latin America by its
leading Writers. Edited by German
Areinieaas. .
PEOPLE in the United States
have been in the habit of cas-
ually lumping all the countries
south of the Rio Grande into one
vast political and cultural unit
known as "South America." And
this grave misconception has been
fringed by, a paper-lace of naive
and romantic notions about a land
of guitars and revolutions. The
ideas are obviously absurd-and
unfortunately common.
The Green Continent is the lat-
est of many recent books which
attempt to destroy this myth and
reveal Latin America for what it
really is-a collection of countries
so sharply differing from one an-
other as to seem on separate plan-
This anthology, edited by the

brilliant Colombian author Ger-
man Arcinieaas, claims to be a
"comprehensive view" of Latin
America are represented. But the
view is by no means comprehen-
The selections are excellent in
themselves and the translations
usually good. Estrara's delicate
word-etching of Mexico City is
exquisitely done, Carrion's "Ata-
huallpa" paints the Inca leader
with vivid, glowing strokes, and-
no one can match Guzman's
swift, dramatic portrait of the
Mexican rebel Pancho Villa.
THE READER learns something
about the diversity of Latin
countries, to be sure. He glimpses
a scene here and there from their
history, sees one or two famous
men, visits a glittering metropolis,
walks through a jungle. He does
not get a "comprehensive view."
It is unfortunate that this anthol-
ogy was not enlarged (it is a small
volume) to cover its field more ade-
quately or else restricted to one
aspect of life or history.
The most valuable portions of
the book are the brief connect-
ing essays written by the editor.
German Arciniegas has a stimu-
lating mind and a skilful pen

extrinsic, political values than with
those that are intrinsic and spirit-
Beast in View is perhaps her
most affirmative book; yet the af-
firmation has not been easily
achieved. For this poet has seen
the cities burning and known the
anguish of loss through war and
through a system of things that
permits a wastage of life and a
distortion of human values.
The faith in life and in the pow-
er of love which Miss Rukeyser-
reveals in Beast in View is faith
desperately clung to in the midst
of "tainted weather," "black blood,''
and "a broken world." In the
poem, "Ajanta," which refers to
the caves of that name in India,
whose walls are covered by a fresco
picturing "the real world where
everything is complete," the poet
seeks a moment of peace and as-
surance through a contemplation
of those ancient walls. For there
actuality is accepted and used as
the basis of creation; the mean-
ings stand clear; "everything is
itself." Yet the contrast between
Ajanta and the world of misery
and terror to which she must re-
turn inspires no desire to retreat
from reality or to endure it with a
fatalistic acceptance; Ajanta sus-
tains her belief in the possibilities
of a more orderly and meaningful
Pessimism and fatalism are for-
eign to the poet. "Life is too strong
to kill," she says in "Suicide Blues."
And in the sonnet, "Who in One
Lifetime," and the lyric, "Gift
Poem," she celebrates belief in
the midst of negation and sees
herself standing in the midst of
ruin and desolation "a childless
goddess of fertility."
"THE River Elegy," one of a ser-
ies of elegies begun in her
preceding volume, A Turning
Wind, is a poem of tremendous
power and implication. It is here
that she most forcefully unites in-
tellect and emotion, the actual
and the symbolical. She is pas-
sionately moved by the betrayal,
the world-darkness which have
been the heritage of the present
generation and cries that "Only
the meanings can remain alive."
Miss Rukeyser's personal lyrics
are less successful than the other
poems in her collection. A poet
who feels with the intellect rath-
er than the heart, she is unable to
achieve that immediacy and
warmth of emotion which the ly-
ric should have.
Many readers, and at least one
critic, find Miss Rukeyser's most
recent work difficult and incom-
municative. The charge is fre-
quently made that she often does
not write poetry at all but an in-
tensified prose, although that
charge cannot be made against
Beast in View. There is no deny-
ing the obscurity of references in,
several of the poems in A Turning
Wind and in the personal lyrics
of her latest book. For like Eliot
and Yeats she is a symbolist, and
her symbols are not always clear.
Yet she never makes a rebus of a
poem; she does not wilfully ob-
scure or permit herself the indul-
gence of an eccentric erudition.
Hence even her most difficult po-
ems are richer in experience and
implication than is at first appar-
Technically Muriel Rukeyser's
poetry is subtle and complex. The
apparent prosiness of some of her
work arises often as not from her
attempt to present actuality, with-
out benefit of metaphor, in such
compelling and vivid terms that it
becomes symbolical. This has been
her major problem and accounts in
part for both her failure and her

Trumpet Voluntary'

Is New Book of Reminiscences

I _


387 pages. MacMillan. $2.75.
. B. STERN has added to the
autobiographical welter of to-
day a third volume of her personal
reminiscences. Trumpet Voluntary
is not precisely a sequel to Mono-
gram and Another Part of the For-
est, but it is a_ companion piece.
The bulk of the three together
hints that it might be possible for
Miss Stern to'go on reminiscing in-
definitely, and that memoirs of the
kind she indulges in are not diffi-
cult to write. The essays are not as
informal and familiar as they are
meant to appear, however; they
are mannered, and carefully plan-
ned to convey a noble message
through a series of delicate sym-
Trumpet Voluntary has been
written in England during the war,
but it is very much like Miss
Stern's earlier works: she attempts
to respond sensitively to the situa-
tion, but her writing is still a
whimsical mirror of herself, and
not of England. Nothing newly ro-
bust or moving has been added.
The technique of the essays is
exaggerated, and their flavor sug-
ary. Their theme is Life Trium-
phant,, the willow herb growing
brightly in the ruins of London,
the phrases of music which (like
Purcell's Trumpet Voluntary) are
clarion calls to humanity. But this
is illustrated by a series of objects,
of scenes, and experiences, which
do not amount to much more than
a sentimental list of "the things I
love." Miss Stern appears to have
reacted quickly to any number of
these things, but in spite of her
enthusiasm she does not seem to
have been deeply affected, and
neither are we.
This is partly because her pas-
tiche is unsuccessful. She has
tried to merge styles and sub-
jects which will not go together,
and to force. something of moral
value to emerge. Such a mixture
may be the stuff of life, but it
disintegrates in any atmosphere
so arty as that of Trumpet Vol-

totary, where banter is intended
to suggest deep, paradoxical
thinking, and where the somber
incidents of war are alternated
with the antics of "our marma-
lade cat," or with quotations of
poetry like the rather trashy
ones from Harold Monro. The
variety which is essential to a
work of this sort is lost in its
lack of unity: the devices which
hold the book together are re-
grettably obvious.
Miss Stern's approach, however,
is an element which does not vary.
She is fanciful, and some of her
fancies, like those about the view
of the Military Tailors, for in-
stance, or those on the fragments
of forgotten dreams, we are very
willing to share. Moreover, some
of her descriptions of Europe be-
fore the war, and especially of
southern France, will make the
initiated nostalgic and the unini-
tiated very jealous indeed. If our
own friends talked to us like this
we would probably consider them
talented and clever.But in print
we demand something more; we
object to a work which insists that
every passing thought of the au-
thor was too precious to ignore.
Writers today talk too easily about
themselves, and there is no reason
why the material of Trumpet Vol-
untary could not be pruned and
incorporated more tastefully in
MISS STERN'S outlook is, more
than positive; her life appears
triumphant as those of the women
in the Matriarch series, if similarly
But it is typical of the way she
reduces everything to the trivial
that she chooses to symbolize this
triumph by a little figurine, a
swaggering china monkey with a
trumpet. No very glorious volun-
tary can be sounded on a toy.
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PHONE 4241


SUNDAY, AUG. 13, 1944

ballroom. For the semi-
formal dance Army and
Navy personnel were
granted midnight liberty.
Sponsors of the dance,
which featured Ralph Wil-
son's band, were the
Bomber Scholarship Com-
mittee and Junior Girls
*. * *
have been requested from
the University to fill Wash-
tenaw County's entire Sep-
tember quota. This is the
largest number which the
University has been as-
signed since the beginning
of the Blood Bank drives.
Previous quotas have been
filled and exceeded during
the fall and spring seme-
sters. "Just as it has
been necessary to increase
our expeditionary forces
as the fronts expanded,
with the need for blood
plasma growing propor-
tionately, it is necessary to
fill and go beyond an in-
crease quota," Sandy Per-
lis, USNR, chairman of the
drive, said.
** *
former minister of Seat-
i la'T nivrsrityrMethodist

to be held Aug. 24-27 at
Great Lakes, Ill. Mann has
entered Charlie Fries, Mert
Church, Gordon Pulford,
and Bill Kogen, freestylers,
and breast-stroker Heini
Kessler in the meet as
well as several of his youth-'
ful proteges from Camp
Chikopi in Ontario which
the Wolverine tank mentor
SHAKEUP of the Michi-
gan coaching staff, result-
ing in the dismissal of
Coaches Ray Courtright,
Eddie Lowrey and Chester
Stackhouse, taking effect
before the coming sports
season was announced Tu-
esday by the men involv-
ed. Courtright, whose
wrestling and golf teams
both brought Western
Conference championships
to Ann Arbor this past
year, said that he under-
stood the shakeup was
made in the interests of
economy, and Lowrey and
Stackhouse confirmed the
opinion. Lowrey, veteran
of 17 years as Wolverine
hockey coach and also
manager of the Coliseum,
commented. "I knew it

- __. ..







THE SUN IS MY UNDOING-Marguerite Steen
THIS Is MY BEST-Whit Burnett ....... .


MAKING IT LAST-Mrs. Mildred C. Reniff of Ash-
field, Mass., waves from her 1914 model T Ford.
Heeding the federal government's advice to make,
cars last as long as possible, Mrs. Reniff had this
buggy put in shape.

CARE OF POSTMASTER-Cpl. St. George ...
NEWS OF THE NATION-Hoffman & Grattan.
PARIS UNDERGROUND-Shiber .. . . . .. . . .,.


ashevski - Westfall' trio
which scourged the West-
ern Conference three years
ago, has decided to play
nr fAnthl with the De-

nating the controversy not
only as to whether he
would play for, Michigan
but also as to his eligibility
under Big' Ten wartime

II II " ' Ii II

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