Sara Haslam
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In sight of war

Ford Madox Ford admired Ivan Turgenev, so it is not surprising that one comes across ideas borrowed, perhaps, from him in the later writer's work. In this case, though, there is a development at work; a development precipitated by World War I. Turgenev's self-confessed nihilist Bazarov expresses amazement at the tenacity of human belief in words – words that, in his example, can diminish and deaden a feeling of catastrophe. Were he to find himself instead in the volumes of Parade's End (or one of a number of other war novels), Bazarov's amazement would be tempered. Ford, post-war, has lost belief in words. He is often unsatisfied with the capacity of language to express the totality of thought or experience; speech constantly ‘gives out’, to be replaced by his most characteristic grammatical tool: ellipsis. Two quotations provide a framework for an exploration into how and why sight functions in the fragmentation of war. The first is from John Keegan's book, The Face of Battle; the second from Frederic Manning's novel, The Middle Parts of Fortune.

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Fragmenting modernism

Ford Madox Ford, the novel and the Great War


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