Remembering the War: Australian Novelists of the InterWar Years
AMONGST the sombre records of war in the stacks at the Australian War Memorial, a couple of bays of shelves stand out, filled with colourful books with equally colourful titles: Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Flesh in Armour, The Turkish Spy. These are Australian war novels, collected despite Charles Bean's opinion that the Memorial should limit itself to providing sources for the official histories and future historians: 'Novels etc. with a war flavour [...] would simply be collected to be stacked in cellars and eaten by silverfish.' But the novels are there, nonetheless, powerful reminders of the close relationship between memory and literature, between remembering and imagining. These books are war records of a different kind: records that can help us today to write the history of what Samuel Hynes has called the 'war in our heads' (74). Such a history treats the First World War as the great imaginative event of the twentieth century. It explores narrative (not military) strategies, and maps the changes and continuities in the ways in which Australians remember their Great War.
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