'This writing concerns some things I saw, felt, and was a part of' begins the preface to one of the most powerful accounts of war to emerge from the twentieth century. Praised by Yeats and Auden, In Parenthesis
was called a 'work of genius' by T. S. Eliot, who ranked its author alongside himself, Pound, and Joyce, and predicted the book would become a classic for the ages. Of Welsh and English parentage, David Jones served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers from 1915 until he was wounded at the Somme in 1916. He converted to Catholicism in 1921 and finished In Parenthesis
sixteen years later. Fusing poetry and prose, the book follows a troop of soldiers from England to France through their preparations for and first experience of battle against the Germans. Jones' language resonates with both Cockney accents ('as Latin is to the Church, so is Cockney to the Army') and echoes of Shakespeare, Welsh epic, Arthur and Roman Britain. His descriptions of the baffling, stultifying loneliness of the battlefield are infused, in his words, 'with a consciousness of the past, the very remote, and the more immediate and trivial.' Long out of print in the U.S., this recent edition contains a foreword by W. S. Merwin, who describes Jones' work as 'not simply a great poem about war but a compelling reiteration of the terror and sadness and beauty of life.'
An Eighth Day View:
"This writing has to do with some things I saw, felt, and was part of" with quiet modesty, David Jones begins a work that is among the most powerful imaginative efforts to grapple with the carnage of the First World War, a book celebrated by W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot as one of the masterpieces of modern literature. Fusing poetry and prose, gutter talk and high music, wartime terror and ancient myth, Jones, who served as an infantryman on the Western Front, presents a picture at once panoramic and intimate of a world of interminable waiting and unforeseen death. And yet throughout he remains alert to the flashes of humanity that light up the wasteland of war.