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Long in the tooth
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Member # 643
Icon 1 posted 02. May 2002 20:17
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'The Forgotten Soldier' was written by Guy Sajer and is one of those books that seems to be in and out of print. It details a young Frenchman who joins the Wermacht as a trucker and then volunteers for the 'Grossdeutchland', the Wermacht's elite Panzer Grenadier Division. If read in conjunction with Manstein's 'Lost Victories', it creates a powerful sense of the decline and defeat of the Germans on the Russian front.
Your best bet in finding a copy are the Military book clubs through the mail.
Good Reading!


Long in the tooth

Posts: 12 | From: Winnipeg | Registered: Jan 2002
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Gordon Angus Mackinlay
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Icon 1 posted 03. May 2002 19:52
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Re. Sajer, the following is of interest. I have absolutely no idea where it came from, have received it from half a dozen different sources sources over the years, plus have seen it on a number of different web sites!

Yours,
Jock in SYdney

The Guy Sajer Follies
by Jonathan Gawne
Copyright 1996- all rights reserved- copyright violators WILL be prosectuted
Like clockwork, someone posts to the net every month or two asking if Guy Sajer is a real person. As I am tired of trying to reply to every query here is a compilation of what's what.

Guy Sajer is alive and well and living in Paris. He is a well known newspaper cartoonist and has never tried to hide his identity- nor has he tried to promote it (why should he, he is well known in his own country). He has illustrated a number of books and comic books on military themes- and has a personal interest in U-boats. Folks that work in Paris military bookshops know him fairly well.

On the other hand, Sajer does not like to talk much about the Forgotten Soldier. He seems to like having an aura of mystery about him. Responding to claims he does not exist- he thinks this is very funny. But again, why should he even care about trying to prove he is real if the book sells so well, and he is very easy to find if you use half an ounce of brain power?

A while ago a US Military Historian wrote an essay claiming the book was fake. In my opinion this essay was very poorly researched. Many of the reasons cited can easily be attributed to the fact that the book was written in French for a French audience. Hence FRENCH military terms (like PM for machine pistol) were used. Again, why would anyone but a diehard enthusiast worry about such details? Certainly not the book publishers who really do not care to re-do a book which keeps selling just fine as is.

Other small details have been cited to prove Sajer is a fake: GD title on wring sleeve- well, figure how easy this is to screw up in translation, or have a 'know-it-all-editor' see that all the SS armbands are on one sleeve, so he changes it. I do not think Sajer has ever even read the English translation. It is sloppy scholarship to use details in a translation of a book to claim the book is a fake! You must go to the original French version and cite the text as written by the author.

As to the non-existence of some of the names used in the book, and the use of certain famous other units (such as a famous Stuka squadron). How many other war books use altered names for whatever reason? So what? This is no big deal.

Keep in mind that this book was written in France during a time when it was NOT a good idea to let people know you served with the Germans- and definitely NOT a good idea to let them know you served in an elite German unit- and a NO NO if you were in an SS unit. Think about this- it is rather important to keep this in mind. Why write a book that may well get you into trouble, under your own name, when it is very easy to take a fake pen name?

Now- some people do feel that the style of writing changes about the time Sajer enters the GD. This has given rise to the theory that it is the tale of two different men- written by two different men and joined into one book. There does seem to be some decent circumstantial evidence that Sajer, the Paris artist, did not actually write the whole book- that he is either fronting for someone else, or that he did the first half and used the better combat tales from someone else for the final part.

And of course there are those that claim he was in a French SS unit (or fronting for someone who was). This is a possibility. But then, there are many possibilities.

For those that insist it is a fake because of a few translation errors and the "non-existence" of Sajer- well, too bad. That's not a good enough reason. Don't go looking in an old German archive for a French citizen who is not in hiding.

For those that wonder about the much smaller and possibly more interesting details... it certainly is an interesting tale. I for one would love to see someone do a computer examination of the original French version to see if the styles of the two halves are the same (in English would be a waste of time). I have also asked the people that have contact with him if he would care to be interviewed on the accusations leveled against the book. Should this come about- the answers may prove very interesting.


Jock
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Posts: 134 | From: Sydney, Australia | Registered: May 2001
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Jungle
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Icon 20 posted 03. May 2002 21:37
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This is very interesting, as I have read the original French version a number of times and never noticed this difference in the 2 parts... but I am not a litterature expert... [Canadian]


Parachute jumping tests and hardens a soldier under stress in a way nothing short of battle can do. You never know about others. But paratroopers will fight.
- Field Marshall Montgomery
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Posts: 145 | From: Home is where my rucksack is | Registered: Sep 2001
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