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Literature

Book: War against war

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Not an easy book to read, but although uncomfortable it is one necessary read and experience for someone who has never seen a war. While most anti-war books will speak mostly about the valiance of the winners and the atrocities of the losing side, this book spares no one. The message is clear and simple: war is hell and we must do everything in our power to never allow this to happen.

I first heard about the book while reading  Regarding the pain of others – Susan Sontag writes about the major impact this book had at the time and the fact that although it is quite brutal it seemed to have little impact during the time of its publication. Moreover, even the vivid description of what war causes  did nothing to change the views of its readership regarding war – the most brutal war of our existence, World war II, was just a few years away.

Having pictures of dead soldiers alongside captions of war propaganda, praising the valiance of soldiers, send chills down your body. The mutilations and horrid deaths do cause soul wrenching feelings for its readers and cause viewing war in another light. Even during the foreword the voice of the author send an outstanding message: men should not seek the glory of war and women and mothers should teach their children that war does not cause anything but pain and suffering. The page that instructs mothers not to buy their children toy soldiers for they cause a false feeling of justice and protection.

Today there is a museum that praises the pioneering of the author and truly sees the genius of the artwork he created – at the time of its publication the author was send to a mental asylum as his views were considered anti patriotic – yet one more example of how we see reason too late.

Book: Regarding the pain of others

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Pain has always been a lonely experience – something that cannot be shared with anyone. No one really understands what you are going through. Sure, we have come up with a range of words and some medical tests that can give an indication of how that pain is felt and how severe – maybe come to some reasonable conclusions based on these depictions – but the true feeling of pain is left only to ourselves.
This is not a new topic – people have long discovered that other people cannot relate to their pain and have tried a large number of methods in demonstrating their anguish. Most artistic forms come from pain – it’s easy to understand that some of the worlds most famous paintings and sculptures describe someone in great torment. However, only the very great have made it possible that their afflictions cross centuries and, with them, generations.
Susan Sontag goes in depth about how we perceive pain through art – looking at war photos and other forms of illustrations regarding people in suffering. A remarkable essay on how the mind in agony tries the same methods of exposing itself. From sketches of Francisco Goya to the photos of Ernst Friedrich the only thing that is different is the technology, the device that records – a fancy camera versus the almighty pen.
Allusions to a series of books, photos, movies and other media are given, mostly all with the basic subject of how far we have come in describing our pain and how little we absorb from the pain of people around us. Also, to be fair to accuracy, she also exposes a series of artistic views that are only that – artistic. A great range of photos have been scripted and do not show that ever alluding shot of true feeling – however, this does not impact our reception of the pain the medium shows us, it only makes us feel closer and receptive.