Friday, September 07, 2007

Rebecca West on War

Rebecca West: ... I think the Second World War was much more comfortable because in the First World War the position of women was so terrible, because there you were, not in danger. Men were going out and getting killed for you and you'd much prefer they weren't ... It was very curious, you see. There I sat on my balcony in Leigh-on-Sea and heard guns going in France. It was a most peculiar war. It was really better, in the Second World War, when the people at home got bombed. I found it a relief. You were taking your chance and you might be killed and you weren't in that pampered sort of unnatural state ...

Interviewer: And yet a [conscripted] army, as fought in Vietnam -- you laugh?

Rebecca West: Well, I can't help thinking that the whole of the Vietnam War was the blackest comedy that ever was, because it showed the way you can't teach humanity anything. We'd all learned in the rest of the world that you can't now go round and put out your hand and, across seas, exercise power; but the poor Americans had not learned that and they tried to do it.
--From p. 242 of The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1.(Philip Gourevitch, ed.)

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