The Winds of War

Sometimes I like to post excerpts from literature simply because I think they model great prose skill, like this excerpt from a historical novel set in WW2, The Winds of War by Herman Wouk. Wouk fought in the Pacific and his portrayals of the war have been acclaimed for their realism and accuracy. This quote is taken from near the end of The Winds of War, and takes place after the Pearl Harbor invasion (p. 884):

The darkness was merciful to Pearl Harbor. The smashed battleships were invisible. Overhead a clear starry black sky arched, with Orion setting in the west, and Venus sparkling in the east, high above a narrow streak of red. Only the faintest smell of smoke on the sea breeze hinted at the gigantic scene of disaster below. But the dawn brightened, light stole over the harbor, and soon the destruction and the shame were unveiled once more. At first the battleships were merely vague shapes, but even before all the stars were gone, one could see the Pacific Battle Force, a crazy dim double line of sunken hulks along Ford Island—and first in the line, the U.S.S. California.

Victor Henry turned his face from the hideous sight to the indigo arch of the sky, where Venus and the brightest stars still burned: Sirius, Capella, Procyon, the old navigation aids. The familiar religious awe came over him, the sense of a Presence above this pitiful little earth. He could almost picture God the Father looking down with sad wonder at this mischief. In a world so rich and lovely, could his children find nothing better to do than to dig iron from the ground and work it into vast grotesque engines for blowing each other up? Yet this madness was the way of the world. He has given all his working years to it. Now he was about to risk his very life at it. Why?

That is a picturesque and moving scene, one of many from Wouk’s writings. I look forward to reading his better-known War and Remembrance sometime in 2011 (DV), but after reading this article in The Paris Review I decided that my next historical fiction read would be The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson, which I hope to begin this weekend.

Are you reading any good literature? Did you read a great book earlier this summer? If you have any great excerpts to share please post those in the comments for us all to enjoy.

2 thoughts on “The Winds of War

  1. Loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Would quote from it but my daughter has it at college now!

    As with the above, some sentences just so perfectly captured a moment and the whole thing is such a glance inside the philosophies of the world and whether unwittingly or not, shows the void that lies at the heart of them all. The glimpse the main characters get at something more comes from the entrance of one man who sees them…actually looks at them when others pass them by. Reminded me so much of what’s around me and what it means when we leave off our lives to see those as Christ saw them even at the last. I don’t have that much opportunity to read for pleasure, but this made me glad I took the time.

  2. Actually, i didn’t read a great book by all measures. I read a rather sad book (A History Of God:By Karen Armstrong)
    I put it aside several times,cause i was apalled and dismay by
    her assertions and conclusions. But eventually, i had to literally foce myself to finish it .Not because it was interesting nor educative,but trying to muster the traits of
    maturity and accomodation of negative and offensive people and materials against faith in God. Most of all, i read it to know how far astray our world is going. And indeed,it is sad. It confirms the simple truth that ‘run-away or boundless liberalism,aggressive secularism and outright atheism’ is taking over the world, especially,for now,the rich-industrialised world. I said for now cause the rest of the world is looking up to this part of the world- the west for education, enlightenment etc. And by the time Africa,
    South America and Asia reach the stage of development that the west has now, one wonders what if anything will be left
    of any kind of religious faith. This is because all the neo-
    liberal shool of thought,(especially moral liberalism)the assertions, egoism and immorality are actively being exported and promoted, just like religion in the olden days.
    Of course, i believe in free flow of knowledge and enlightenment, for thats the only way to attain liberty,
    equality,justice and genuine brotherhood of mankind. Having
    said that, i implore and adjure all peoples of religious faith,most especially fellow Christians to insist, just like
    Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and other eminent sages, that GOD is the Originator and Dispenser of all wisdoms- scientific, academic etc. Its the height of arrogance that make some ‘learned or famous’ people think their assuptions
    and conclusions’re absolute truth. We know that science is practical,but in matters of faith, we have to accept that;
    some things’re beyond human comprehension. And they’re veritable sages who yield to God as originator,omnipotent,
    omnipresent and omniscient et cetera!! This concluding question is to all atheists:What if indeed there is God at the end? And what if there is invalueable and immeasurable
    reward to those who love Him and call Him Father?

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