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No Enemy: a Tale of Reconstruction
Edited by Paul Skinner
No Enemy was written, for the most part, in 1919, almost exactly midway between The Good Soldier and the first volume of Parade's End, and Ford himself later described it as 'in effect my reminiscences of active service under a thinly disguised veil of fiction...'
It began as a series of articles called 'English Country' but Ford added a fictional frame which concerns the narrator's attempts to transcribe the story of Gringoire, a poet who served at the front. It details the effects of war on the mind, and why Ford felt unable to write about the most extraordinary experiences of his life while in the army. The first part recalls those moments at which the pervasive effects of war receded and the landscape became visible as landscape. The second concentrates on interiors, on the 'ordinary' people in whom Ford perceived elements of heroism. The example of strength and courage of a Belgian woman, her house ruined and her family scattered or killed, is the final catalyst for Gringoire, whose war effectively ends when he accepts his duty to write and, with that acceptance, is able to envisage a future for himself.
It is a profoundly moving book because Ford clearly recovered his artistic strength in and through the writing of it: as the narrative frame gives way increasingly to Gringoire's unmediated voice, we hear it - and Ford's own voice - strengthen. It is, effectively, the story of how the author of The Good Soldier became the author of Parade's End, and its curious hybrid genre foreshadows Ford's wonderful books of the thirties.
No Enemy is one of Ford Madox Ford's most fascinating books and an act of witness to the First World War. Ford left the army in 1919 to settle in rural Sussex with the young Australian painter, Sheila Bowen. Suffering from shell-shock and erratic memory, he struggled to set down his experiences of the previous four years.
Ford's protagonist is the poet Gringoire, who has survived the war and represents aspects of the writer. With his fictional frame in place, Ford created the distance necessary to confront, as Paul Skinner writes, the pains of 'having lost friends, of being terrified, afraid of going mad,afraid of dying'.
No Enemy is often funny, but also profoundly moving, because Ford so clearly recovered his artistic strength in and through the writing of it. In his introduction, Paul Skinner explores the world in which No Enemy was written, and considers how, by reinventing himself, Ford also reivented the strengths of his own writing.
'No Enemy is Ford Madox Ford's little-known First World War novel, musing and reflective, published for the first time in Britain by Carcanet and ably edited by Paul Skinner. Congratulations to them both.'
Alan Judd, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday 30th June 2002 Praise for Ford Madox Ford 'what Ford conveys above all is less his particular preference than his radical passion for the novel as an instrument and what can be done with it.'
C.H. Sisson 'It displays Ford's dedication to his art; it demonstrates, also, the possibilities of English prose in the hands of a master.'
Peter Ackroyd, The Sunday Times 'The Rash Act ought to be bought and read by all interested in the novel as an art form... The action takes place in the French South which Ford loved, but man no longer sustains the tradition of myth and history which that region once represented... Here in The Rash Act we have the death of morality and responsibility - a forbidding theme, but, in the paradox of art, it is made to serve a tapestry of rich colour and galloping vivacity.'
Anthony Burgess, Observer 'Of the various demands... that he show us the way in which a society works, that he show an understanding of the human heart, that he create characters in whose reality we believe and for whose fate we care, that he describe things and people so that we feel their physical presence, that he illuminate our moral consciousness, that he make us laugh and cry, that he delight us by his craftmanship, there is not one, it seems to me, that Ford does not completely satisfy.'
W. H. Auden
'Ford Madox Ford's Parad's End, arguably the most sophisticated British fiction to come out of that war. Carcanet's reissue of the first volume, Some Do Not (£18.95), is the first reliable text, reconstructing Ford's dramatic original ending. Brilliantly edited by Max Saunders and now to be filmed (scripted by Tom Stoppard), it deserves to be and will be better known.'
Alan Judd, Books of the Year 2010, The Spectator.'Of the various demands one can make of the novelist, that he show us the way in which a society works, that he show an understanding of the human heart, that he create characters whose reality we believe and for whose fate we care, that he describe things and people so that we feel their physical presence, that he illuminate our moral consciousness, that he make us laugh and cry, that he delight us by his craftsmanship, there is not one, it seems to me, that Ford does not completely satisfy. There are not many English novels which deserve to be called great: Parade's End is one of them.'
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