Back Over There: One American Time-Traveler, 100 Years Since the Great War, 500 Miles of Battle-Scarred French Countryside, and Too Many Trenches, Shells, Legends and Ghosts to Count

Back Over There: One American Time-Traveler, 100 Years Since the Great War, 500 Miles of Battle-Scarred French Countryside, and Too Many Trenches, Shells, Legends and Ghosts to Count

by Richard Rubin

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Overview

In The Last of the Doughboys, Richard Rubin introduced readers to a forgotten generation of Americans: the men and women who fought and won the First World War. Interviewing the war’s last survivors face-to-face, he knew well the importance of being present if you want to get the real story. But he soon came to realize that to get the whole story, he had to go Over There, too. So he did, and discovered that while most Americans regard that war as dead and gone, to the French, who still live among its ruins and memories, it remains very much alive.

Years later, with the centennial of the war only magnifying this paradox, Rubin decided to go back Over There to see if he could, at last, resolve it. For months he followed the trail of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front, finding trenches, tunnels, bunkers, century-old graffiti and ubiquitous artifacts. But he also found an abiding fondness for America and Americans, and a colorful corps of local after-hours historians and archeologists who tirelessly explore these sites and preserve the memories they embody while patiently waiting for Americans to return and reclaim their own history and heritage. None of whom seemed to mind that his French needed work.

Based on his wildly popular New York Times series, Back Over There is a timely journey, in turns reverent and iconoclastic but always fascinating, through a place where the past and present are never really separated.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250084323
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 04/04/2017
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 1,196,438
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Richard Rubin is the author of the upcoming BACK OVER THERE from St. Martin's Press. He is also the author of The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War and Confederacy of Silence: A True Tale of the New Old South, as well as scores of pieces for The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Smithsonian, among others. A fifth-generation New Yorker, he now lives in small-town Maine, which baffles his neighbors. You can visit him at richardrubinonline.com.

Table of Contents

Prologue Follow Me 1

1 Like Traveling Back in Time 9

2 The Soul of the Battlefield 32

3 Chemin des Américains 55

4 From the Bowels of the Earth 85

5 What If 120

6 The Burnt Woods and the Ball-Shaped Tree 160

7 Red Giant 197

8 The Devil's Basket 233

Epilogue History and Memory 268

Appendix 280

Selected Bibliography 281

Acknowledgments 283

Index 286

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Back Over There: One American Time-Traveler, 100 Years Since the Great War, 500 Miles of Battle-Scarred French Countryside, and Too Many Trenches, She 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Poe00 More than 1 year ago
In old photographs of the battlefields of the First World War, there are miles of mud, a few bombed out sticks for trees, and soldiers with those shell-shocked eyes. But, a hundred years later, those fields in France are bucolic, and impossibly green. Beneath all that beauty, the war is still visible, and surfacing all the time in farmers' fields are: live shells, bullets, buttons, bottles, and shrapnel--evidence that these were once killing fields. Rubin goes back to France and wanders through old trenches, concrete bunkers, chalk mines, miles of cemeteries, Belleau Wood, and field after field, and finds not just the detritus of war but the stories of the men who fought there. Back Over There is a strange and compelling book--you don't expect a war travelogue to take on the anatomy of historical memory but Rubin just isn't afraid to get as close to history as he can, without--and this is important--getting us all depressed. For it was out of the First World War that words like basket case came into being. And, yet, Rubin brings the past forward through careful lenses of setting and character, using an historian's gaze, a journalist's ease and eye for detail, and enough storytelling and wit and close commitment to being here and now in the living world to shelter us from the sheer weight of loss. To want what might, maybe, outlast it. Somehow, reading this book is entertaining (as in enjoyable) as well as enlightening (as in shedding light onto some of the very darkest historical landscapes). You will walk away from this book wanting to go to France and see it for yourself. In his interviews with centenarian veterans in his previous book Last of the Doughboys, Rubin found a "secret shortcut" into the past, through remembrance; in Back Over There, it's what Rubin finds in those fields, and France itself, that becomes the way back. The best reason to read any book, and this one in particular, is because the writing is worthy of the subject. As Camus wrote: "The writer's role is not free of difficult duties. By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it."
Poe00 More than 1 year ago
In old photographs of the battlefields of the First World War, there are miles of mud, a few bombed out sticks for trees, and soldiers with those shell-shocked eyes. But, a hundred years later, those fields in France are bucolic, and impossibly green. Beneath all that beauty, the war is still visible, and surfacing all the time in farmers' fields are: live shells, bullets, buttons, bottles, and shrapnel--evidence that these were once killing fields. Rubin goes back to France and wanders through old trenches, concrete bunkers, chalk mines, miles of cemeteries, Belleau Wood, and field after field, and finds not just the detritus of war but the stories of the men who fought there. Back Over There is a strange and compelling book--you don't expect a war travelogue to take on the anatomy of historical memory but Rubin just isn't afraid to get as close to history as he can, without--and this is important--getting us all depressed. For it was out of the First World War that words like basket case came into being. And, yet, Rubin brings the past forward through careful lenses of setting and character, using an historian's gaze, a journalist's ease and eye for detail, and enough storytelling and wit and close commitment to being here and now in the living world to shelter us from the sheer weight of loss. To want what might, maybe, outlast it. Somehow, reading this book is entertaining (as in enjoyable) as well as enlightening (as in shedding light onto some of the very darkest historical landscapes). You will walk away from this book wanting to go to France and see it for yourself. In his interviews with centenarian veterans in his previous book Last of the Doughboys, Rubin found a "secret shortcut" into the past, through remembrance; in Back Over There, it's what Rubin finds in those fields, and France itself, that becomes the way back. The best reason to read any book, and this one in particular, is because the writing is worthy of the subject. As Camus wrote: "The writer's role is not free of difficult duties. By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it."