WWI’s Horror In Details of Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was acclaimed the greatest novel of the great war when it appeared in 1918.

Few today would rate it so highly.

Vicente Blasco Ibanez relies heavily on exposition, paints all French as noble and all Germans as monsters, and shifts focus unnecessarily. But despite its flaws, The Four Horsemen is still worth reading.

To escape military service, Marcelo Desnoyers flees to Argentina, where he and a German marry a rancher’s daughters.

Both ex-patriots become rich and return home. The German’s son goes into the military. The Frenchman’s son becomes a painter and philanderer. After Julio seduces a friend of his father, the elder Desnoyers refuses to see him again.

To fill the void in his life, Desnoyers begins collecting art in his Marne River castle. When World War I begins, Desnoyers is caught in the Battle of the Marne.

Afterward he is old, sad, and vehemently anti-German. Mutual emptiness reunites father and son until war parts them forever.

The novel’s strength lies in tiny details, like a farmer swerving his plow around mounds that indicate buried corpses, and  Desnoyers’ reply when asked in what capacity he served during the Battle of the Marne.

“Merely as a victim,” he replies.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
By Vicente Blasco Ibanez
Trans. Charlotte Brewster Jordan
E.P. Dutton, 1918
Project Gutenberg ebook #1484
489 pages
My grade: B+
©2009 Linda Gorton Aragoni
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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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