An NYRB Classics Original
Winner of the Scott Moncrieff Prize for Translation
1915: Jean Dartemont heads off to the Great War, an eager conscript. The only thing he fears is missing the action. Soon, however, the vaunted “war to end all wars” seems like a war that will never end: whether mired in the trenches or going over the top, Jean finds himself caught in the midst of an unimaginable, unceasing slaughter. After he is wounded, he returns from the front to discover a world where no one knows or wants to know any of this. Both the public and the authorities go on talking about heroes—and sending more men to their graves. But Jean refuses to keep silent. He will speak the forbidden word. He will tell them about fear.
John Berger has called Fear “a book of the utmost urgency and relevance.” A literary masterpiece, it is also an essential and unforgettable reckoning with the terrible war that gave birth to a century of war.
Reading Fear feels like being led through the damnation panel of Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, the front line ‘blazing like some infernal factory where monstrous crucibles melted human flesh into a bloody lava.’ Fear remains a bravura work, fearless from start to finish, pitiless in its targets, passionate in its empathy.
—Neil Fitzgerald, The Times Literary Supplement
Gabriel Chevallier’s autobiographical novel about serving in the bombed-out trenches of World War I still chills the blood. In indelible passages it describes the sensory degradation of war on the human body. Translated into English by Malcolm Imrie without a hint of stiltedness, Chevallier’s long-neglected novel is one of the most effective indictments of war ever written.
—Tobias Grey, The Wall Street Journal
If Fear has an English equivalent it is The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning or, in German, Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger, each of which give a view of the war from the perspective of lowly infantrymen, and both of whom, like Chevallier, remain stoutly immune to the old lie that dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
—The Sunday Telegraph
Gabriel Chevallier, best known for his magnificent novel Clochemerle, has used his experiences during World War I to produce a work of great intensity, comparable to such great literary masterpieces of the period as Henri Barbusse’s Under Fire.
—The Daily Mail
All the horrors of war are here, but atrocity alone would not be enough to explain the grandeur of this text. It is the healthy defiance and controlled anger which earned the book its stripes.
The most beautiful book ever written on the tragic events that blood-stained Europe for nearly five years.