„I was very interested in the Great War, as it was called then, because it was the initial twentieth-century shock to European culture.“
— Paul Fussell
Humanities interview (1996), Context: I was very interested in the Great War, as it was called then, because it was the initial twentieth-century shock to European culture. By the time we got to the Second World War, everybody was more or less used to Europe being badly treated and people being killed in multitudes. The Great War introduced those themes to Western culture, and therefore it was an immense intellectual and cultural and social shock. Robert Sherwood, who used to write speeches for Franklin D. Roosevelt, once noted that the cynicism about the Second War began before the firing of the first shot. By that time, we didn't need to be told by people like Remarque and Siegfried Sassoon how nasty war was. We knew that already, and we just had to pursue it in a sort of controlled despair. It didn't have the ironic shock value of the Great War. And I chose to write about Britain because America was in that war a very, very little time compared to the British — just a few months, actually. The British were in it for four years, and it virtually destroyed British society.