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This report is taken from PN Review 160, Volume 31 Number 2, November - December 2004.

War's Legacies Grevel Lindop

The traces of war are everywhere, not always recognised as such. Loot, as well as damage, can take strange forms. An instance is 39 rue de la Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. A palace originally built and furnished for Napoleon's sister Princess Pauline Borghese, it was acquired by the Duke of Wellington after the Battle of Waterloo and is still in British hands. Now it is the residence of the British Ambassador: a wonderfully opulent fantasy in white, gold and crimson Empire baroque, the ceilings of its reception rooms sustained by titanic caryatids, the luckless Princess's short, overstuffed double bed on display amongst the gilded furniture of an anteroom.

On 9 July, number 39 was the setting for humbler though no less eloquent survivals of another war: the dented German bugle taken as a battlefield souvenir by Wilfred Owen; the worn khaki knapsack inked with the name of Captain Robert Graves and carried by him in 1916, when it contained not a Napoleonic Field Marshal's baton but a copy of Nietzsche's poems. (One too easily forgets that Graves was half-Irish and halfGerman.) The objects were on display for a reception to mark the establishment of the War Poets Association, a new international organisation which aims `to promote interest in the work, life and historical context of poets whose subject is the experience of war'. The Association's main focus will be on post-1914 conflicts, but will not be limited to the First World War: the Spanish Civil War, the ...
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