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August 7, 2014 3:21 PM   Subscribe

The history of soccer in the First World War — which began in earnest 100 years ago this month — is a history of two worlds in unresolvable tension. It’s the story of a failed metaphor. Soccer in Oblivion.
posted by Ghostride The Whip (2 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is timely for me; I'm in the middle of Mrs Dalloway, and just got to the part where Woolf is describing the background of Septimus Warren Smith, who flees a wretched lonely childhood ("he could see no future for a poet in Stroud") for London and manages to get a job at Sibleys and Arrowsmiths—auctioneers, valuers, land and estate agents—where his boss, Mr. Brewer, thinks very highly of his abilities but worries about his health; he
advised football, invited him to supper and was seeing his way to consider recommending a rise of salary, when something happened which threw out many of Mr. Brewer’s calculations, took away his ablest young fellows, and eventually, so prying and insidious were the fingers of the European War, smashed a plaster cast of Ceres, ploughed a hole in the geranium beds, and utterly ruined the cook’s nerves at Mr. Brewer’s establishment at Muswell Hill.

Septimus was one of the first to volunteer. [...] There in the trenches the change which Mr. Brewer desired when he advised football was produced instantly; he developed manliness; he was promoted [...]
That's how you take a failed metaphor and make it work in a novel.
posted by languagehat at 5:14 PM on August 7 [1 favorite]


Proust also remarks on war as sport (from Time Regained, Ch. 2) :
Odette’s features assumed a knowing look which was emphasised when she remarked: “I don’t say that the German armies don’t fight well, but they lack that cran as we call it.” [...] Unnecessary to say that she never neglected to use in all contexts the expression “fair play” in order to show that the English considered the Germans unfair players. “Fair play is what is needed to win the war, as our brave allies say.”
But then, a bit later:
“It is not so much Germany as the war itself that I fear for France. People imagine that the war is only a gigantic boxing-match at which they are gazing from afar, thanks to the papers. But that is completely untrue. It is a disease which, when it seems cured at one spot crops up in another. To-day, Noyon will be relieved, to-morrow we shall have neither bread nor chocolate, the day after, he who believed himself safe and would, if needs must, be ready to die an unimagined death, will be horrified to read in the papers that his class has been called up. As to monuments, the destruction of a unique masterpiece like Rheims is not so terrible to me as to witness the destruction of such numbers of ensembles which made the smallest village of France instructive and charming.”
posted by ersatz at 12:06 PM on August 8


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