I bring you a non-fiction book that I think will appeal to many of you (or will make a fabulous gift for somebody you know):
The Greenhill Dictionary of Military Quotations by Chris Riddell (Illustrator), Peter G Tsouras (Editor)
‘A massive compilation casting light not only upon the pain, suffering and sheer insanity of war, but also upon the unique comradeship and exhilaration of battle… this is a valuable addition to the literature of reference.’ – The Spectator
Peter Tsouras brings 4,000 years of military history to life through the words of more than 800 soldiers, commanders, military theorists and commentators on war. Quotes by diverse personalities – Napoleon, Machiavelli, Atatürk, ‘Che’ Guevara, Rommel, Julius Caesar, Wellington, Xenophon, Crazy Horse, Wallenstein, T.E. Lawrence, Saladin, Zhukov, Eisenhower and many more – sit side by side to build a comprehensive picture of war across the ages.
Broken down into more than 480 categories, covering courage, danger, failure, leadership, luck, military intelligence, tactics, training, guerrilla warfare and victory, this definitive guide draws on the collected wisdom of those who have experienced war at every level. From the brutality and suffering of war, to the courage and camaraderie of soldiers, to the glory and exhilaration of battle, these quotes offer an insight into the turbulent history of warfare and the lives and deeds of great warriors.
About the authors:
Peter Tsouras has written critically-acclaimed alternate histories on D-Day, Gettysburg and Stalingrad. He was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. After army service in the US and Germany he retired from the US Army Reserve in 1994 in the rank of lieutenant colonel. After his army service Tsouras worked for the U.S. Army Intelligence and Threat Analysis Center (now the National Ground Intelligence Center) and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Chris Riddell, OBE (born 13 April 1962) is a British illustrator and occasional writer of children’s books and a political cartoonist for the Observer. He has won three Kate Greenaway Medals as well as the British librarians’ annual award for the best-illustrated children’s book, and two of his works were commended runners-up, a distinction dropped after 2002
I received an early hardback review copy of this book from the publishers, which I freely chose to review.
I am sure I’m not alone in my love of quotations. The best of them summarise wise opinions on a subject, are humorous, surprising, enlightening, and can sometimes make us see something (or somebody) in a completely new light. They are also memorable and can encapsulate the main points of complex theories or simply an amusing and touching thought. We might not remember a whole novel, or play, or a treatise, but will often remember a quotation that particularly connected with us. Those are some of the reasons that attracted me to this book.
Another one of the reasons is the topic. I’m not an expert in military history, but there are aspects of it that crop up everywhere. Recently, with the COVID-19 crisis, many commentators have observed that the members of the government dealing with the different aspects of it (I’m talking about the Spanish government, but I think it applies to many others as well), have used language and terminology better suited to a military campaign than to a health emergency, and that is often the case in many walks of life. In a similar way to sports, metaphors and similes from the military world are frequently used to refer to any situation involving two opposing sides or views (regardless of the enemy not being even visible to the naked eye). And, if you work in a pretty competitive environment, you’re likely to have had Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, or Machiavelli’s The Prince recommended as reading material at some point. You catch my drift.
That’s why this book is such a great resource. Lieutenant Colonel Tsouras explains in his acknowledgments the difficulties he had to find, identify, and classify all the quotations he needed when writing his books on military subjects, and how that resulted in several editions of this dictionary, always with room for improvement and expansion. Both in the acknowledgements and the preface, the author/editor (I feel although the original words are not his, the design and the careful selection of the sources represents an authorship in its own right) explains his process, his choices (there are over 6000 quotations split into almost 500 categories, in alphabetical order, but there could be very many more), and why we should not forget these men and women, their words, and their wisdom. As he says in the preface ‘They are not dead as long as they are remembered’. He makes sure that we are provided a context as well, so we don’t misunderstand the true intentions of the writer (or speaker), as we know is often the case with quotations.
The book is further enhanced by Chris Riddell’s illustrations. Those ink sketches are amusing and sharp, and rather than being generic and evenly distributed, they illustrate specific quotations and are perfectly suited to the text. I’d love to have more of them, but their scarcity makes them more compelling. This volume also contains a select bibliography and a biographical index which will be helpful to those whose interest is piqued by a particular quotation or historical (or contemporary) figure.
This is a great book to dip in and out of, and I’m sure you’ll all find some old favourites and discover some new ones. It is also a great resource to history teachers (and teachers in general), writers (not only of stories with military or action subjects), historians and those interested in such topics, fans of general knowledge, and people who love quotations and are forever looking for new sources and collections.
There are so many quotations in the book that it’s impossible to decide what to share, but here are two I’d never heard before (and that ring particularly true):
You cannot pay my Marines enough for what they do for this nation. But you sure can pay them too little. (General Charles Krulak, testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 February 1999).
I always remember the Japanese soldier who outraged the sense of patriotism and duty of his superior officer by saying, ‘In Osaka I would get five yen for digging this gun pit; here I only get criticism.’ (General Sir Ian Hamilton, The Soul and Body of an Army, 1921).
Thanks to Rosie from Pen & Sword and to the author and illustrator for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and keep safe and smiling!