'Men are made to be husbands, fathers - men, in short! Not animals that hunt one another down.' Under Fire follows the fortune of a French battalion during the First World War. For this group of ordinary men, thrown together from all over France and longing for home, war is simply a matter of survival, and the arrival of their rations, a glimpse of a pretty girl or a brief reprieve in hospital is all they can hope for. Based directly on Henri Barbusse's experiences of the trenches, Under Fire is the most famous French novel of the First World War, starkly evoking the mud, stench and monotony of an eternal battlefield. It is also a powerful critique of inequality between ranks, the incomprehension of those who have not experienced battle, and of war itself.
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Henri Barbusses was born in 1873 in Asnieres-sur-Seine, France. He fought as a volunteer in the First World War, which inspired his masterpiece Under Fire (1916). The book was criticised for its harsh naturalism and hatred for militarism, but won the Prix Goncourt. A noted pacifist and later a communist, Barbusse's socialist novel Clarte (1920) lent its name to a short-lived internationalist movement. His other works include The Knife Between the Teeth (1921) and Le Judas de Jesus (1927). Henri Barbusse died in the Soviet Union in 1935, of pneumonia. He was writing a second biography of Stalin at the time.
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