Blasting and Bombardiering Critical Context - Essay

Wyndham Lewis

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Among World War I memoirs per se, Blasting and Bombardiering cannot claim a particularly significant place. Lewis was exorcising martial demons, but he does so with facetiousness and wit rather than with a brutal portrayal of the horrors he faced. The power and importance of the book lie in the author’s ability to provide a sense of the war’s impact on the intelligentsia. The cynicism, the sense of absurdity produced by the previously unimagined “butcher’s bill” of the western front suffuse the entire volume. Although this element will be much more powerful for those who have some knowledge of the war’s influence, any sensitive reader will be aware of it.

Historians not concerned with ideas and art will find less in Blasting and Bombardiering than will other scholars. Lewis does, however, make interesting comments about popular attitudes in 1914 and in the early 1920’s. His accounts of the western front, if less powerful or detailed than others, also have some value.

Blasting and Bombardiering, especially the American edition with its three added chapters of fiction, makes an excellent introduction to Lewis’ many works of fiction and nonfiction. Perhaps because of his admiration for Adolf Hitler, expressed in some articles and Hitler (1931), his works of philosophical and sociological comment as well as his novels have not been much studied. This is unfortunate. Lewis was no Nazi, and in The Hitler Cult (1939), he tempered his view of the Fuhrer significantly. His work is worthy of more attention.