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A classic up-close memoir of fighting in the chaos of World War I.
Today, we may have an orderly historical picture of the Great War. But for a soldier like Henri Desagneaux, there was no pattern to be seen from the trenches, where he executed orders ensuring that dozens of men had to die attempting to achieve impossible objectives worked out at a headquarters in the rear.
His diary, one of the classic French accounts of the conflict, gives a vivid insight into what it was like to execute those orders, and to live in the trenches with increasingly demoralized, unruly, and mutinous men. In terse, unflinching prose he records their experiences as they confronted the acute dangers of the front line. The appalling conditions in which they fought—and the sheer intensity of the shellfire and the close-quarter combat—have rarely been conveyed with such immediacy.