Prose & Poetry - Henri Barbusse

Henri Barbusse Henri Barbusse (1873-1935) was the author of Le Feu (Under Fire), a classic memoir of wartime service in the French Army during the First World War.

Born on 17 May 1873 in Asnières, Barbusse's early career saw him steer a course first as a neo-Symbolist poet, publishing Pleureuses (Mourners) in 1895, and then as a neo-Naturalist novelist, publishing L'Enfer (The Inferno) in 1908.

However Barbusse gained fame - and notoriety - with the publication of Le Feu in 1916 (published as Under Fire in English), in what was one of the earliest memoirs to critique the French rationale for war and to establish a firmly anti-war stance.  For all that he had voluntarily enlisted for wartime service in 1914 his memoir emphasised the lamentable suffering and disillusion of the average French soldier.  A widespread international success, his book went on to win the Prix Goncourt.

Wounded in action and by now a committed pacifist, Barbusse was formally discharged from the army in 1917.

His subsequent work similarly focused on moral and political aspects, including Clarté (Light), published in 1919.  He established a post-war movement as a means of stirring other writers worldwide to address social and political affairs.

Eventually settling in the Soviet Union as a communist, Barbusse died in Moscow while working on Staline (Stalin) on 30 August 1935 aged 62.  He is buried in Paris, France.

In slang a "beetle" was a landing craft for 200 men.

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Prose & Poetry