Very lovely piece from last night’s 7.30 Report about Arthur Wheen, an Australian World War I veteran whose other claim to fame is that he translated All Quiet on the Western Front. Interestingly, it was Wheen who fashioned the title which became part of the vernacular in many parts of the Western world; Remarque’s original title translates directly from the German as “No News from the West.”
Made me ponder the the loss of life in not just this war, but others, and the loss of great creative minds like Wheen. While he survived, think of creative energies of say a Wilfred Owen (currently reading his collected works, feeling each word like a tiny stab at the heart, imagining the horror of a fine and beautiful mind caught in such utter shit) or a Rupert Brooke, both of whom died fighting (although Brooke died from blood poisoning brought about by an insect bite). One of my personal favourites, TE Lawrence, died not during WWI, the basis for Seven Pillars of Wisdom but some years later, having never recovered from his wartime experiences in the Middle East ( as a fascinating sideline, Lawrence never made any money from Seven Pillars because he believed he shouldn’t profit from his war service. So British…)
Yet, someone like amateur painter and proto political-thesis writer Adolf Hitler survived World War I to start another massive war just 21 years later. Go figure.
I also think about who was lost in other wars; think of Anne Frank for instance, a burgeoning writer if ever there was one. European Jews were highly creative and many of the escapees from the Nazis went on to recharge the Hollywood film industry and to become its leading figures. But how many didn’t make it?
Worth thinking about what solutions to the world’s ills, what beauty, what ideas and energy, what cultural and creative leaders were lost in some senseless war on some senseless plot of land somewhere.
Be interested to hear and learn of more artists lost to war. Could be a great idea for a book or doco.