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27 August 2014



By New Statesman


Set by Gavin Ross

It was Jane Austen’s habit never to mention the wars that formed the backdrop of some of her novels. We asked you to imagine how she would revise a work by a well-known war novelist of your choice (for example, Pat Barker, Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway) to follow along Austenian lines.

This week’s winners

One comper wrote in to ask whether the revised novel should be in the style of Austen or in
the style of the original author. Either, really, depending on how much editing Austen has done. Indeed, your entries all fell along that continuum. The four winners each receive £25, with a merit award of £5 to G M Davis.

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The Naked and the Dead
by Norman Mailer

Though circumstances dictated that there could be no exhaustive debate on the topic, it being a matter of accepted protocol that a final decision rested on the judgement of an officer, the choice of Mount Anaka as a destination gave the small party a fragile unanimity. There would be Japanese – that was axiomatic – and their hospitality could hardly be expected, though one had heard that their tea ceremonies were of a great formal beauty. Thus, protected from the heat by suitable summer clothing in several pale shades and alert for any surprises on the trail, the platoon set forth.

Lieutenant Hearn was reflecting that while Harvard professed to equip one for whatever transpired, he remained out of his sphere in the American “social mix”, a feeling inopportunely strengthened when Sergeant Croft animadverted coarsely once more against the “fuggin’ Japs”. Yet in the same thought he cautioned himself against priggishness.

Basil Ransome-Davies

A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway

That her Voluntary Aid Detachment posting should be to the British hospital in Milan was not displeasing to Catherine Barkley, whose firmness of character and sympathetic instincts had
responded to cruel bereavement by rallying her to a cause higher
than personal contentment.

Italy beckoned as the cradle of a historic civilisation that had left its imposing features in the architecture of every street. Besides such bewitching inducements she had attracted, in the intervals between her spells of nursing duty, the company of two suitors. Of Tenente Rinaldi she easily understood that he was, in the Latin way, a playful pursuer of her kind. Frederic Henry, also a lieutenant but American, gave much room for puzzlement, though Catherine did not fail to admit to herself that the rigidly pursed Scottish lips of Helen Ferguson in his presence counted in his favour. Yet life with him would be strange.

G M Davis

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Inspirited though Paul might have seemed, he could not profess himself other than a close companion of Kat, with whom he had exchanged so much intelligence. Without further prevarication, he set down his pocketbook, gathered Kat up with singular propriety and undertook a quite passable imitation of a dancer struggling to improve his footwork. Even in circumstances so unlucky, Paul was philosophical. What were so many hundreds of yards to him? A trifle.

“Well, my dear Paul,” interrupted the orderly. “Fancy you might have spared – oh! – your exertions.”

Paul was vexed. “I suppose,” he said, “that to endeavour to assist a friend whose leg has suffered an indisposition may be thought laudable.”

“No, indeed! But I think your companion is quite mortified.”

Paul, spirits freshened by a draught of water, demurred. He leaned forward and brushed a speck of mud from the boots Müller had bequeathed him.

Bill Greenwell


by Pat Barker

When Dr William Rivers, handsome, clever and rich, announced a ball at Craiglockhart Hospital, he anticipated considerable excitement consequent upon the proposal.

Excitement, however, is not invariably of a congenial character. Mr Prior, though mute, declared his intention, by means of a vociferous note, not to attend on the not altogether unreasonable grounds that he could not, without the assistance of quill pen and paper, request a dance. Mr Burns, a gentleman of nervous disposition, declined also, declaring any refreshments likely to be served inimical to his constitution.

Other invalids, whose bodies had been abridged during recent travels on the Continent, declined their invitations also, citing their inability properly
to dance quadrille. Only
Mr Sassoon, the fox-hunting man, declared himself entirely in favour of the festivities, emboldened by the news that no ladies would be present to assure Dr Rivers that their friend Mr Owen would be certain to attend.

Adrian Fry

The next challenge

No 4339 By J Seery

As the industry of literary criticism grows, we want some heavy, academic reviews of light writing; for example, the novels of P G Wodehouse, Jerome K Jerome, Richmal Crompton, John Mortimer, Tom Sharpe, Jonathan Lynn or Garrison Keillor.

Max 150 words by 11 September

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