Flesh in Armour and abjection of war

Nile, Richard (2016) Flesh in Armour and abjection of war. In: Kanwar, Neelima, (ed.) Narratives of Estrangement and Belonging: Indo-Australian Perspectives. Authorspress, New Delhi, India, pp. 21-45.

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In 2010, Australian rnilitary historian, Peter Stanley contended Leonard Mann's Flesh in Armour as perhaps the most insightful and honest of Australia's Great War novels. According to critic and specialist on Australia's literary responses to war, Christina Spittel, Stanley was 'struck that a returned serviceman should be so outspoken about the prostitutes in London, about mutiny, even suicide', which were topics studiously avoided by official war histories and 'sidelined by a conunemorative conununity that regards the Great War's battlefields as the place where tl1eir nation came of age.' As I have argued in an earlier edition of the Indian Journal of Australian Studies, Australia's leading publisher, Angus & Robertson, rejected Flesh in Armour, which Mann subsequently self-published in 1932. The one major review of the novel echoed A&R's reader report: 'very disappointing and unpleasant reading ... disgusted with the view Mr Mann presents of our Australian Infantry ... he does not hesitate to give his readers the unpleasant and lurid details of this tragedy ... Mann could far better have portrayed the spirit of ... wonderful comradeship ... surely higher instincts cannot condone the unsavoury contents.' Mann's apparent offence resided in his interpretation more so than the veracity or otherwise of his literary account of the conditions of war, though he was also censured on that score. 'It did not occur to me until well on in the twenties that I might write a novel', remembered Mann some decades later, 'I had been asked to write the history of the battalion in which I served. Well, instead I would write a novel of infantry in the war, and I did: Flesh in Armour. Despite Mann's participation in the events depicted, the decision to write imaginatively and in the manner he did drew a hostile response. He had let the team down and stirred that which his ctitics believed should be better left alone. There was a community standard and expectation, as one reviewer puts it in 1929, that no 'debased or impure literature can exist among a people of high moral worth.' In this paper, I attempt to locate Flesh in Armour within the context of a different taboo subject-the treatment of the dead in war.

Item ID: 54052
Item Type: Book Chapter (Scholarly Work)
ISBN: 978-93-5207-393-1
Keywords: literature, war, poetry, horror, abjection, publishing
Copyright Information: © 2016 Editor
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2020 00:19
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) @ 50%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950203 Languages and Literature @ 50%
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