NauenThen

Testament of Youth

July 24, 2015

Tags: Vera Brittain

Women did a lot of knitting when their men went off to war.
Pleased that Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth, a book I have read & recommended many times, is now an excellent, devastating, film. Most of the people I have pressed it on probably never read it but maybe they'll see the movie.

WHEN I WAS A GIRL at St. Monica's and in Buxton, I imagined that life was individual, one's one affair; that the events happening in the world outside were important enough in their own way, but were personally quite irrelevant. Now, like the rest of my generation, I have had to learn again and again the terrible truth of George Eliot's words about the invasion of personal preoccupations by the larger destinies of mankind, and at last to recognize that no life is really private, or isolated, or self-sufficient. People's lives were entirely their own, perhaps—and more justifiably—when the world seemed enormous, and all its comings and goings were slow and deliberate. But this is so no longer, and never will be again, since man's inventions have eliminated so much of distance and time; for better, for worse, we are now each of us part of the surge and swell of great economic and political movements, and whatever we do, as individuals or as nations, deeply affects everyone else. We were bound up together like this before we realized it; if only the comfortable prosperity of the Victorian age hadn't lulled us into a false conviction of individual security and made us believe that what was going on outside our homes didn't matter to us, the Great War might never have happened. And though a few isolated persons may be better for having been in the War, the world as a whole will be worse; lacking first-rate ability and social order and economic equilibrium, it will go spinning down into chaos as fast as it can--unless some of us try to prevent it.
—Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth: An Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900–1925