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This article is taken from PN Review 129, Volume 26 Number 1, September - October 1999.

True Love and a G.C.M. (edited by Max Saunders) Ford Madox Ford

This excerpt from the War Prose of Ford Madox Ford, is the second instalment of the previously unpublished novel Ford began while still in the army.1 The protagonist, Gabriel Morton, has been recovering from shell-shock in a Red Cross Hospital. The narrative here goes back to his experiences in the Ypres Salient, where Ford himself had been posted in August 1916, soon after his own traumatic experience of being concussed by a shell-explosion. Animosity develops between Morton and his Commanding Officer (as it did between Ford and his). The climax of this section is the gripping description of the raid Morton leads across No Man's Land to bring back a sample of the new German barbed wire.

It is a masterly piece of war writing, not least because of the frankness with which it renders psychological processes. Like much of Ford's writing about war, it is concerned with how the mind suppresses perceptions or memories. Morton worries about patches of amnesia in his life. (Ford had even forgotten his own name for thirty-six hours after his shell-concussion.) His mind, he realizes, always works in 'double pictures' - as did Ford's literary impressionism. He had described his technical aims in 1914, while writing
The Good Soldier:

I suppose that Impressionism exists to render those queer effects of real life that are like so many views seen through bright glass - through glass so bright that whilst you perceive through it a landscape or a backyard, ...


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