This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

Actors often repeat the cliche that comedy is a difficult art.

The little I have read, I am now convinced, the cliche — which is probably not true — works in reverse for writers. Evoking a genuine sense of tragedy and yet not make the reader tire or second guess appears an almost impossible task. Writing “funny”, meanwhile, needs just one exhibit: Maanga three years ago[1].

The American Civil War, that single human endeavor serving as everyone’s prism, has now been recounted from the perspective of death. Most people we know, from idiot quizzers at IIT-M to rednecks in the Palmetto State, are self proclaimed experts on the subject. Drew Gilpin Faust’s account though, is so moving that one often forgets what a scholarly piece of work it is. Dr Faust recounts the tale of the proverbial unknown soldier. And in doing so, gives the reader 19th Century glasses that makes one question the 21st Century perspective on what life and death actually mean. If one isn’t moved to tears by the nameless American Soldier — a product of Victorian norms coming to terms with the stench of death — one has to say, that other cliche about hearts of stone has to be true.

[1] — That bad attempt at a strange loop created a loop of loops and hence you may excuse it.

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