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The Enormous Room (1922)

por e. e. cummings

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1,4582612,549 (3.72)1 / 94
"In 1917, after the entry of America into World War I, E. E. Cummings, arecent graduate of Harvard College, volunteered to serve on an ambulance corps in France. Arrived in Paris with a new friend, William Slater Brown, the two young men set about living it up in the big city before heading off to their assignment. Once in the field, they wrote irreverent letters about their experiences which attracted the attention of the censors and ultimately led to their arrest. They were held for months in a military detention camp, sharing a single large room with a host of fellow detainees. It is this experience that Cummings relates in lightly fictionalized form in The Enormous Room, a book in which a tale of woe becomes an occasion of exuberant mischief. A free-spirited novel that displays the same formal swagger as Cummings' poems, a stinging denunciation of the stupidity of military authority, and a precursor to later books like Catch-22 and MASH, Cummings' novel is an audacious, uninhibited, lyrical, and lasting contribution to American literature"--… (mais)
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The author, well known to me as a poet, was a volunteer ambulance driver in France during the First World War. He was imprisoned for suspected anti-war sentiment, but eventually released and returned to the US. This is his account of his imprisonment. I’d never heard of either his imprisonment or this work, but it was apparently quite controversial when published in the early 1920s. Several critics bombed it, essentially for being politically radical. Some critics praised it but said that it was a work of fiction and some compared it to The Pilgrim's Progress (The author has a characteristic descriptive style, which I found irritating, but he specifically denies that the book is fiction [but, what does that mean?]).

Anyway, Cummings' account held my interest, but I had some problems with it. I know Cummings was a young man, but his account has a definite adolescent quality replete with various highly offensive slang terms for his fellow inmates. The book is peppered with French; single words, phrases, and longer amounts. I suppose this is to give the flavor of the situation. I know a few words of French, but I was constantly using the Kindle to translate. Some of the words may be the slang of the times since I could not translate them. It didn’t seem to me that the book would have lost anything by being written all in one language or the other. Lastly, the book is described as sort of an ur-Catch 22. But it is hardly that. Furthermore, I'm familiar with several other anti-war writings of the time that are superior. I think this book’s obscurity is understandable. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
A summer camp romp where the punch lines are in French. ( )
  galuf84 | Jul 27, 2022 |
> Babelio : https://www.babelio.com/livres/Cummings-Lenorme-chambree/4690

> Je vous incite à lire ce monument d'écriture. Une littérature de la joie et de la poésie, dans un lieu sordide et déprimant. Une écriture riche, savoureuse, que l'on doit lire avec attention, comme pour ne pas briser la magie des mots.
Danieljean (Babelio) ( )
  Joop-le-philosophe | Feb 17, 2021 |
Good novel, but not close to Russian lit when it comes to prison life ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
I found e.e. cumming's novel "The Enormous Room" to be a challenging and dull read.

It's an autobiographical story about the time he was imprisoned in France following his service as an ambulance driver during World War I for (erroneous) suspicions of treason.

He is transported to a series of prisons where he meets a variety of people, which he describes in great detail, before his eventual release four months later.

I was just bored by this book -- which has dense prose and plenty of French sprinkled through it -- my mind kept wandering and I frequently was wondering if I missed something that makes this tale interesting. I'm glad cummings mostly stuck to poetry. ( )
1 vote amerynth | Feb 28, 2020 |
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We had succeeded, my friend B. and I, in dispensing with almost three of our six months' engagement as Conducteurs Volontaires, Section Sanitaire Vingt-et-Un, Ambulance Norton Harjes, Croix Rouge Americaine, and at the Moment which subsequent experience served to capitalise had just finished the unlovely job of cleaning and greasing (mettoyer is the proper word) the own private flivver of the chef de section, a gentleman by the convenient name of Mr A.
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"In 1917, after the entry of America into World War I, E. E. Cummings, arecent graduate of Harvard College, volunteered to serve on an ambulance corps in France. Arrived in Paris with a new friend, William Slater Brown, the two young men set about living it up in the big city before heading off to their assignment. Once in the field, they wrote irreverent letters about their experiences which attracted the attention of the censors and ultimately led to their arrest. They were held for months in a military detention camp, sharing a single large room with a host of fellow detainees. It is this experience that Cummings relates in lightly fictionalized form in The Enormous Room, a book in which a tale of woe becomes an occasion of exuberant mischief. A free-spirited novel that displays the same formal swagger as Cummings' poems, a stinging denunciation of the stupidity of military authority, and a precursor to later books like Catch-22 and MASH, Cummings' novel is an audacious, uninhibited, lyrical, and lasting contribution to American literature"--

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