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The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
I picked this up a while back and it made quite an impression, enough of one that I have done this review of it.

What can I say about this book? It is heartrending beyond belief, a unapologetic account of one man's experience during World War Two. The protagonist, Guy Sajer, is a youth of sixteen at the beginning of this memoir. He is also half French and from Alsace. The book begins with Sajer joining the German army in 1941 at the tender age of sixteen. He is posted to the Russian Front and takes part in the abortive relief of Stalingrad. He then joins an elite corps called the Gross Deucshland.

The memoir follows the travails of Guy Sajer for the next three years until the end of the war. This is the bare detail of the story. For prose and poignant telling, Sajer is unequaled in this genre. His style is very matter of fact. This is what happened, these are the men I served with, this is what I endured and I make no apology for what I did or felt.

At times when reading the memoir you are brought right into the horror of combat. But Sajer is not condemning, this is not an anti-war book, just his story. You get a strong sense that he is proud of his war record and when you read the accounts of the battles he fought in, you cannot fault him. The book is not a political statement or hyperbole.

Sajer pays respect to the men with whom he served with through the battles of Stalingrad, Belgorod(better known as Kursk-Orel), the defense of Memel and finally the Western Front. There is a revealing moment on the Western Front, where he witnesses Germans surrendering and comments how this would not have happened in Russia.

Reading the book, you find yourself thinking, would I have survived this. Throughout his writing, Sajer, does not portray one single moment of his own bravery. But he tells of the courage of his comrades in great detail. You begin to wonder and look about at the average sixteen year old today.
In starting this review, I was going to relate the events of the book and comment on the style but I failed. This is a story that is beyond critique, good or bad. All I can say in conclusion, is to read the book.