Max Egremont

A Man Apart

Storm of Steel

By

Allen Lane 320pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Ernst Jünger lived through Germany’s dark twentieth century. Born in 1895, he died in 1998, having been a solder in both world wars and a writer whom the Nazis claimed briefly as one of their own. Jünger greatly admired physical courage, seeing battle as the ultimate test, yet combined this with an intense aesthetic sense of modern war and its landscape. As a boy from a prosperous family in Hanover, he joined the French Foreign Legion and quickly enlisted in the German Army in 1914; he could never have echoed the first words of Edrnund Blunden’s memoir, Undertones of War: ‘I was not anxious to go.’ By December Jünger was at the front (in the ranks until September 1915, when he became an officer), and he saw more action than most First War writers, ending up with the German decoration Pour le Mirite, the equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Wounded first at the Somme, he had been hit fourteen times by November 1918. In August of that year, sure he was dying, he felt a surge of happiness that his courage had been proved; death in battle seemed to him to be the noblest of all ends.

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