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This article is taken from PN Review 127, Volume 25 Number 5, May - June 1999.

'Pon...ti...pri...ith' (translated from the French by Max Saunders) Ford Madox Ford

The complete essay printed here is the first of a series of excerpts to appear in PN Review from War Prose of Ford Madox Ford, edited by Max Saunders (to be published by Carcanet in August 1999). This new volume will mostly contain unpublished and uncollected writings by the novelist whose magnificent tetralogy Parade's End is increasingly being seen as the greatest British fiction about the First World War. Ford, who served in the Welch Regiment, wrote the following essay in French in the autumn of 1918, when he had returned from the Western Front, and was attached to the staff in Yorkshire, inspecting, training and lecturing.

The essay appeared in
La Revue des Idées in November 1918 (pp. 233-8). It was probably written as propaganda for the Ministry of Information (for which Ford had already written two books before serving in France). But like all Ford's propaganda, it is oblique. The editor perhaps felt it necessary to say Ford's 'inclinations are clearly anti-German' precisely because the piece doesn't read like an anti-German tract. The Germans are not even mentioned. The fighting is not directly described. What does come across is an intense elegiac poignancy, embracing both the Welsh soldiers and the French citizens who welcome them. Again, like so much of Ford's writing, it is autobiographic, reminiscential, and impressionist: more a personal attempt to render his state of mind, than a public polemic. And, as so often, Ford expresses the effects of war on his mind ...


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