C. E. Montague
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ISBN 9780571243334 Format Paperback
Published 29/05/2008 Length 236 pages

About Book

Disenchantment was one of the first books written after the First World War to express a sense of liberal disillusionment with the way the war had been conducted. It had a considerable impact when it was first published in 1924, though it was overshadowed later by the angrier and more directly descriptive memoirs of Sassoon and Graves.

Montague offers a unique perspective on the war in France. He joined up as a white-haired 47-year-old volunteer, as part of a unit of the Royal Fusiliers manned mainly by older sportsmen (he had been a keen mountaineer before the war). He was also a very senior journalist, a leader writer for the Manchester Guardian. After being wounded in action in early 1916, he became an intelligence officer, dealing with journalists and visiting writers and censoring their reports.

His book is highly allusive, replete with references to classical literature, and recalls a pre-war kind of essayistic belles-lettres (the book first appeared as a series of essays in the Guardian). These techniques are placed at the service of a rueful meditation on the cynicism, corruption and mendacity of the organization of the British war effort, especially the official propaganda about the aims of the war.

Montague was writing at a time of desperate social unrest, industrial militancy and rising intolerance. 'Civilization itself', he wrote, 'the at any rate habitable dwelling which was to be shored up by the war, wears a strange new air of precariousness'.

  • About C. E. Montague

    Charles Edward Montague was born in 1867. His father was a former Irish Catholic priest who had renounced his office. He joined the staff of the Manchester Guardian in 1890 after a stellar student career at Oxford, and by the late nineties he was the paper's chief leader writer, working closely with the great C.P. Scott, the paper's editor. He married Scott's daughter in 1898. Montague was particularly alert to the misuse of journalism and the power of the press. In 1914 he accepted that Germany was responsible for the war and that German militarism had to be defeated, a position that put him at odds with Scott's more pacifist editorial line. After the war he returned to the Guardian as a contributor of impressionistic and literary pieces. He died in 1928.

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