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Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Great War’s Deep Scars

By Dr Jon Minton, University of Glasgow

…The Great War tended to be much more deadly than World War Two, killing a greater proportion of those who fought; and secondly, and most tragically, that the Great War, in combination with the influenza pandemic that swept through Europe in 1918, appears to have killed and weakened many people who were not even born at the time, but instead in its wake.

What would the world look like if we could see time as space, stretching out into the distance, the near future and near past visible to us as nearby objects, ancient history and the distant future just specks on the horizon? In the novel Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut conjured up an alien species, the Tralfamadorians, for whom time was simply another dimension that could be seen like any other. For them, the events of birth and death were not surprises, eliciting joy and fear as they did in people, but were instead simply features in a four dimensional spatiotemporal landscape. Because of their perspective, the aliens were (and are, and will be) fatalistic, not horrified as people are by war or disease or famine, as such events are simply part of the scenery.

Slaughterhouse Five has been critiqued and criticised as a work of quietism, the aliens a narrative device, their fatalism in fact Vonnegut’s fatalism, the protagonist’s experience of witnessing the firebombing of Dresden channelling his own experience of this event. In this interpretation, the novel grew out of psychological scar, with Vonnegut wounded by witnessing, first hand, the enormity of advanced warfare in the twentieth century. The wound suffered as a young man, the scar carried by the author into his dotage in the new millennium.

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4 August Commemorations in Glasgow

On Monday, 4 August the UK commemorated the centenary of its entry into the First World War. With the close of the Commonwealth Games just a day before, Glasgow became the locus of Commonwealth centenary commemoration. Following a memorial service in Glasgow Cathedral, officials, members of the armed forces, and dignitaries from around the Commonwealth attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the city’s cenotaph in George Square and a reception in City Chambers.

 

Our bird's-eye view of the wreath laying from City Chambers

Our bird’s-eye view of the wreath laying from City Chambers

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