The Missing of the Somme
By Geoff Dyer
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307742971, 176pp.)
Publication Date: August 9, 2011
Other Editions of This Title: Compact Disc
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Geoff Dyer’s classic The Missing of the Somme is part travelogue, part meditation on remembrance—and completely, unabashedly, unlike any other book about the First World War. Through visits to battlefields and memorials, he examines the way that photographs and film, poetry and prose determined—sometimes in advance of the events described—the way we would think about and remember the war. With his characteristic originality and insight, Dyer untangles and reconstructs the network of myth and memory that illuminates our understanding of, and relationship to, the Great War.
Geoff Dyer is the author of four novels, a critical study of John Berger, and five other books, including But Beautiful, which was awarded the Somerset Maugham Prize, and Out of Sheer Rage, which was a National Book Critics Circle finalist. He lives in London.
“A lyrical meditation on memory and the meaning of World War I. . . . [A] thoughtful and thought-provoking pilgrimage through the war’s bibliography and battlefields. . . . Illuminate[s] how thoroughly memory and history are interwoven with literature.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“[A] strange and wonderful meditation on the cultural legacy of World War I. . . . The Missing of the Somme shows us that stark simplicity isn’t the only way to talk about war. . . . [It is] a lovely, alive work.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“The Missing of the Somme . . . looks back at the unfathomable destruction of [World War I] through the fogged, distorted lens of collective memory, which can only deteriorate further with the passing of time. . . . How do we bring ourselves to acknowledge such awful events? And what purpose do memorials really serve? They are, Dyer implies, inherently insufficient.”
—The Boston Globe
“Fresh and often unsettling. . . . Sophisticated and nuanced. . . . Quirky but often brilliant. . . . The timing could not be more appropriate. . . . For Americans, as for Britons, memory of World War I is now entirely a matter of secondhand information. Only the films, books and monuments remain. Dyer poignantly and at times playfully examines the way these objects shape his countrymen’s mental picture of what happened between 1914 and 1918. . . . As [his] meditation on remembrance demonstrates, reminders of the past do have a life of their own, shaping and reshaping the vision of history we carry in our minds. . . . The Missing of the Somme will not disappoint [Dyer’s] fans.”
—The Kansas City Star
“[An] instant classic. . . . Dyer supports his point with an impressive survey of poems, letters, memoirs, and novels, combined with a perceptive analysis of British war memorials, and utilizing extensive citations.”
“Brilliant. . . . The great Great War book of our time.”
“Dyer delights in producing books that are unique, like keys.”
—James Wood, The New Yorker
“[A] penetrating meditation upon war and remembrance.”
—The Daily Telegraph
“No contemporary writer blends genres like Geoff Dyer.”
“A loving book . . . about mourning and memory, about how the Great War has been represented—and our sense of it shaped and defined—by different artistic media. . . . Its textures are the very rhythms of memory and consciousness.”