The Anzac Legend didn't mention mud: Australian novels of the Western Front

Nile, Richard (2020) The Anzac Legend didn't mention mud: Australian novels of the Western Front. Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature, 20 (1).

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Abstract

Mud was not the least of ironies of war on the Western Front. Nor was it the least of ironies that trenches had been dug ‘where the water-table was the highest and the annual rainfall most copious’ (47), Paul Fussell observed in his classic study of British literary responses, The Great War and Modern Memory. Beyond irony, mud was a ‘gruesome fact no one had planned for.’ It claimed the lives of countless thousands ‘drowned’ nowhere ‘near the sea,’ Adam Hochschild observed in his 2014 history To End All Wars (211). Mud defined the main theatres of operation and was code for the Western Front even when the conditions were dry. Passchendaele was known as the ‘Battle of Mud’ while Ypres was called ‘Wipers’ at least partly because of the atrocious conditions. Australian photographer Frank Hurley’s iconic images at Chateau Wood reveal something of the extent of the quagmire (in a compositional method that brought him into dispute with the creator of the Anzac myth, C. E. W. Bean) while bombs and rain poured down on the Somme and turned the earth into a ‘dark glutinous sea,’ as Leonard Mann called it in his 1932 novel Flesh in Armour. Vance Palmer’s ‘mud and misty figures’ of battle fatigued diggers emerge from the ‘foul morass’ and persist into nightmares ‘endlessly coming,’ even when the war is over in the 1920 poem ‘The Farmer Remembers the Somme’ (Holloway 110). Soldier-novelist Edward Lynch wrote simply of ubiquity in Somme Mud: ‘We live in it, work in it, fight in it, wade in it, and many of us die in it. We see it, feel it, eat it and curse it, but we cannot escape it, not even by dying’ (108).

Item ID: 63625
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1833-6027
Copyright Information: The copyright for articles in this journal is retained by the author(s), with first publication rights granted to the journal. By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use with proper attribution in educational and other non-commercial sectors. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 2.1 Australia License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.1/au/
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2020 23:59
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) @ 70%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 50%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 50%
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