am 11. Oktober 2004
Das Buch, das im Original „The Guns of August" heisst, ist eines der Klassiker über den 1. Weltkrieg. Es ist eine fundierte Analyse der Vorbereitung auf diesen scheinbar unausweichlichen Krieg und der ersten Monate in denen das Schicksal Europas noch an einem seidenen Faden hing. Profund beschreibt Barbara Tuchman die Hintergründe, insbesondere die Verbohrtheit der politischen und militärischen Entscheidungsträger. Auf beiden Seiten waren sie überzeugt, dass ein Krieg für ihr jeweiliges Land Vorteile bringen würde und mit ausreichend Entschlossenheit rasch zu gewinnen wäre. In großartigem Erzählstil berichtet sie über den Vorstoss der Deutschen, die Gegenoffensive der Franzosen und den Kriegseintritt der Russen. Angenehm fällt dabei auf dass sie sich überraschend unparteiisch verhält. Kein Funken Parteinahme ist zu erkennen wenn sie beispielsweise mit unterschwelligem Abscheu über die Dummheit der französischen Generäle berichtet. Diese hingen der verrückten These nach, mit genügend Elan wäre ein Durchbruch zum Rhein zu schaffen und weigerten sich ihre linke Flanke zu verstärken. Spannend wie ein Krimi entwickelt sich das Buch wenn Barbara Tuchman die kriegsentscheidenden Tage schildert. Staunend erkennt der Leser wie knapp die Deutschen vor dem Sieg standen und welch relativ geringe Entscheidungen zum Stillstand der Offensive und zum anschließenden mörderischen Auszehrungskrieg führten.
Fazit: Ein erstklassiges Buch, hervorragend recherchiert und spannend zu lesen
am 7. Juni 2000
Europe in the late summer of 1914 was more than a powderkeg poised to go off; it was prewired and preset demolition awaiting the excuse of a match. According to Barbara Tuchman in this insightful and descriptive period piece of history, each of the potentates involved in the coming world war had a battle plan, a series of objectives, and a relatively good sense of what the other powers would do in the conduct of hostilities. Yet each disregarded the potential contingencies that might arise from the efforts of opposing forces, and descended pell-mell in the unbelievable madness of total war based on a combination of factors ranging from arrogance, overestimation of capability, personal animosities, ambition, lack of imagination of what could happen as a result, and of course, sheer ignorance.
Tuchman's magic in employing the written word to advantage shines here, as her narrative weaves together the elements of a world in transition, empires ruled by Kings, Queens and Kaisers living in the past, out of touch with what advances in technology and tactics meant, and not recognizing that these revolutionary changes in technology, demography, and battle techniques would plunge the world into a nightmare conflict that none of them could foresee, contain, or manage, once it started.
In many ways the first world war marks the true demarcation point between the old European world of tradition, chivalry, and empires, on the one hand, and the frightening new world of tanks, machine guns and mass exterminations. Prepared and propelled by visions of glorious conquest in a battlefield characterized by Kipling and "the charge of the light brigade", what they got in its place was the horrifying nightmare war of extermination in trench warfare, infantry slaughtered anonymously by artillary, tanks and rapid fire weapons the troops had no effective tactics to protect against. So much for the old glory.
Yet all that lay ahead, in the weeks, months and years of bloody battle, of the excruciatingly costly struggle for new territory turned into a useless bloodbath for mere feet and yards. Here we are dipped deep into the boiling cauldron of people steeped in the mystique of the past, trying to win glory and fortune through warfare, and never understanding that the very attempt itself would result in the ruin of everything they knew and treasured, for the nature of the protracted conflict did indeed change everything, and Tuchman winds her way through the book with dazzling description and highly readable prose.
This is a wonderful and memorable book, typical of Tuchman's engaging and often humourous writing style, detailing as it does the ways in which old and outdated perspectives try ruinously to force themselves and their designs into an abrasive future, at the expense of everything traditional, local, and familiar. It is a valuable snapshot of a moment suspended in time, lovingly restored, taken of a world in violent transition at that very moment as we first stepped off the threshold of the past into the bloody abyss of the 20th century.
am 22. August 1998
Initially referred to as 'The Great War' and then later as 'World War I', I have concluded that the 1914-1918 War should be called 'The Unnecessary War' after reading "The Guns of August". Mrs. Tuchman is clearly one of the most talented authors to ever put pen to paper. She takes the events that most history text books have reduced to boring drivel and makes them very real and very relevant to modern times.
Mrs. Tuchman's accounts of German inflexibility and Allied complacency lead one to the inescapable conclusion that not only was the war entirely avoidable, but once started needn't have been nearly as long and bloody as it turned out to be: The German refusal to halt war preparations once they began simply because it was too inconvenient. The French failing to anticipate the German sweep around their left flank. The naive Belgian insistence on nuetrality even in the face of imminent attack. The British refusal to commit enough troops to make a real difference. The failure to update tactics to match the new technology on all sides, but particularly the Allied side. It all adds up to a colossal failure of both political and military leadership that would ultimately cost millions of lives.
One other effect of this book on my thinking is that I felt much less sympathy for the Allies than I had before reading it. The arrogance and incompetence of the French in particular make it very difficult to feel sorry for them. I now question whether this was a war in which the U.S. should ever have become involved. After all, our entry was instrumental in the defeat of Germany and the subsequent Versailles Treaty. As we all know, the seeds of the Second World War were sown with that ill conceived document.
At the very least, this book will make you think critically about the monumental events of the time. It is most enlightening and, I must say, as entertaining as any fiction novel I have ever read. This book is a must for all well informed citizens of any country.
am 22. März 1998
Barbara Tuchman is one of the greatest historical writers, with-out a doubt. She ranks in the Pantheon of such figures as Heroditus, Robert K. Massie, and Sir Winston Churchill. Although _Guns of August_ was a tad long and technical, it is still one of the best works of this century.
As she said in the preface to _Guns of August_, 'I have tried to avoid spontaneous attribution or the "he must have" style of historical writing: "As he watched the coastline of France disappear, Napoleon must have though back over the long ...". All conditions of weather, thoughts or feelings, and states of mind ... have documentary support.' That is the sign of a good historical writer. She can simply relate the facts and give the reader the kind of suspense from a thriller movie, or the emotion from a romantic one. As she described the out-break of war between USA and Germany, one sympathized with Bernstorff and the American Ambassador to Germany. They each had friends in their host countries, and they cried to leave them. Similarly, the exchange between Count Friedrich von Pourtales and Sergej Sazonow is just as touching:
'Pourtales staggered to the window, leaned against it, and burst into tears. "So this is the end of my mission," he said when he could speak. Sazonow patted him on the shoulder, they embraced, and Pourtales stumbled to the door, which he could hardly open with a trembling hand, and went out murmuring, "Good-bye, good-bye."' (page 103)
Reading these books was an experience; it was more exciting than watching a movie, or even reading a novel. These were the facts, told simply. There was no superfluous additions; no editorial comments. Yet they were able to touch me, and I began to sympathize with the characters, similar to how I would react to a fictional one. Tuchman was able to weave poor, misguided Wilhelm; innocent, unrealistic Wilson; vindictive, blood-thirsty Churchill; and pessimistic Helmuth von Moltke into a tapestry of fantastic story-telling. And the conclusion: I found myself rooting for the Germans. To be able to make me switch sides alone; that is the greatest feat. Her unpartisan writing is the stuff the best books are made of.
am 19. September 2000
The perfect book. It reads like a novel, but as they say "truth is stranger than fiction." Ms. Tuchman has written the quinessential masterpiece on the beginnings of what has to be the most confusing conflict in history. World War I will shake the ruling classes foundations to the ground. Monarchies will no longer reign supreme in its aftermath, communism gains a foothold it will not relinquish for 80 years, England bleeds herself white, but why?.... This book explains how the worlds most powerful industrial societies allowed everthing they held dear to be destroyed. This book doesn't take sides, it explains why the sides began the war juggernaut a rolling. In detail, with passion, and in a moving manner. This war more than any other can be directly attributed to arm build-up and a diplomatic status quo. The diplomats from all sides fumble and it kills millions. The generals use 19th century assault tactics in the face of 20th century firepower with grizzly results. In five weeks time, which the author has descibed perfectly, step-by-step, the western world begins and cannot stop the "War to End All Wars" Ms. Tuchman may no longer be with us but this book will make her immortal.
am 28. Juni 2000
This is a very entertaining and readable book about the first month of WWI. The scope is basically the assassination of the Archduke in Sarajevo to the eve of the Marne (and includes the Battle of Tannenburg on the eastern front). Because most of the action occurs in the western front at this stage of the war, the book concentrates there. It develops the Schlieffen Plan and the French war plans (Plan 17) and explains how the high commands of both countries attempt to carry out these plans irrespective of what the other side is doing.
Tuchman does not assign blame. She tries her best to give all sides of a disagreement in policy or action. This even-handed account is most welcome. The best example of this approach is her treatment of Lanrezac, commander of the French 5th army from the start of the war to a few days before the Marne - she points out that he was the man most essential to preventing the Germans from turning the French flank in the early battles, but then agrees with his dismissal at the eve of the Marne: "He was not the man to lead the offensive."
The only person she completely villifies is Sir John French, leader of the BEF. Although I get the impression that she would have forgiven his follies if only he hadn't written a book after the war full of inconsistencies and, to use Tuchman's word, "lies."
Most importantly, the book is very well-written, enjoyable and clear to read, and even witty. Unfortunately, there are some spots with vague allusions to historical events and people without explanantion. While a practising historian probably finds this humourous or helpful, it is murky for an amateur. This is a minor point, though, and on the whole, this book is stellar. Highly recommended.
am 26. Juni 2000
Barbara Tuchman's account of the first two months of World War I is written in a narrative style that puts real faces (glorious as well as shady) on the individuals who are so often lost in the trenches of historical writing. One is amazed at how seemingly trivial events combined with underlying factors would, in less than a month, lead to the destruction and rebirth of the world. An entire generation of young men would be lost by the decisions made by a few. Unlike how the war is usually presented, these choices were not easy ones, whether for Poincare or the Kaiser, and all parties involved slept little until the very last minute of peace. The same emotions courses through the reader at every turn of the page as the mind absorbs the history as if it has countered it for the first time. Barbara Tuchman is also very fair in her views of the leading characters in the unfolding drama. True, many generals were incompetent, throwing entire populations at each other in an attempt to outmaneuver the enemy and win a glorious victory in the style of Napoleon of Bismarck. However, they were human, and one can empathize with the meloncholy felt by Sir French, the sense of inevitability felt by King Albert, and the crushing affect of past parental achievements on the mind of von Moltke. At times, though, one may feel that Shakespeare said it best through the mouth of Puck: "What fools these mortals be!" The many, missed opportunities for a completely different and benevolent future stings us with the same impact of a failed field goal that would've won the NBA finals. This book is closest to some real-time experience of World War I that one can get, and quite frankly a lengthier work describing the entire war will be too exhausting. I have never read a history book as this one; more "strategic" than Stephen Ambrose but more "tactical" than Gilbert Martin. Barbara Tuchman is a truly unique writer.
am 23. Juni 1999
A bit curious that I enjoyed Tuchman's "The First Salute" more than this book, as Salute is generally considered her weakest, and August her strongest. I felt a bit disarmed because I do not have a good understanding of the previous war (1870). Also, the book ended a bit abruptly rather than continue into the beginning of the French reversal and trench warfare that would ensue. A good read, but I needed more to put a cap on it. I feel like I only got half the story.
Tuchman has a way of digging into a person, and getting to the nut of their situation, their crisis, and how they chose to resolve it. What I enjoy most is that she often leaves the "why" question to the reader, which is appropriate because no one save the characters themselves really knows the why. Still, she neatly frames the entire issue, and then tosses the why in front of you, giving you pause that continues even after you have finished the book. A nice habit of hers. She also seems to have a keen insight into the issues that plague a commander in the field (also in Salute), the intangible factors that most authors and readers ignore. The meddle that some of the Generals she wrote about showed is impressive, and Tuchman has a talent for presenting that in a very human way; refreshing in the glare of "Action" films and books where officers are shown as uncaring army drivers.
I recommend the book, but suggest a review of 19th century European history first. Even an hour's worth of review will prove very useful prior to reading this pup. It's a shame Barb didn't do it herself (as she did in Salute) and include it as a foreward.
"A Distant Mirror" covers an entire century. That should be enough to keep me happy. I'll think I'll read that one next.
am 14. Oktober 2010
Wer einmal dieses Buch in die Hände genommen hat, legt es so schnell nicht mehr weg. Frau Tuchmann erweckt mit einzigartiger Kunstfertigkeit sprachgewaltig eine scheinbar längst vergangene Epoche zum Leben. Sie beschwört die Geister der Vergangenheit und lässt sie ihre eigene Geschichte erzählen: da liefern sich hohe Generäle Dispute, der Kaiser gibt abfällige Bemerkungen von sich und der ganze Wahnsinn der Kriegsmaschinerie offenbart seine hässliche Fratze. Das hier ist kein Telefonbuch voller trockener Daten und Statistiken, hier geht es um die Menschen und wie sie ihre Machtpositionen ausgestaltet haben.
Die Autorin meistert dabei den gefährlichen Drahtseilakt zwischen guter Unterhaltung auf der einen Seite und der Vermittlung von knallharten Fakten auf der anderen, mit Bravour. Obwohl man heutzutage scheinbar den kompletten Verlauf des ersten Weltkriegs bereits kennt, werden nochmal tiefe Einblicke in die maßgeblichen politischen und militärischen Entscheidungsprozesse gewährt. Teilweise werden die Geschehnisse akribisch Stunde für Stunde beleuchtet.
Der im Buch abgedeckte Zeitraum umfasst die ersten paar Monate des Konfliktes. Also warum und wie der Krieg begann, wer die Akteure waren und wie die ersten Wochen des offenen Kampfes für alle Seiten abgelaufen sind. Es geht nicht um eine generelle Zusammenfassung des gesamten ersten Weltkriegs, sondern einen bewusst scharfen Blick auf den Anfang. Ein spannendes Stück Geschichte, präsentiert von einer hochbegabten Autorin.
am 18. Juni 1998
The Guns of August is the fourth Barbara Tuchman book I have read and is a masterwork of historical writing. I learned in school that the Archduke Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo and then all these countries went to war because they had secret treaties. Tuchman tells the real story from the opening chapter of the Funeral of Edward VII (with the array of kings and princes, such as have never been assembled since) through the incredible stupidity of the war planners (on all sides of the conflict) to the final days of the first month of the war. The personal and political and familial and military relationships are so clearly defined that the scenes described take on a vivid life. This is an excllent book, a great undertaking that has awakened me to the fact that war itself made a drastic and horrible turn in 1914 from which the world has not yet recovered. There had always been horror associated with war, despite the language of honor, but the technology changed and the tactics that made the massacre of civilians a shocking event that resonated around the world are now accepted procedures for all combatants, including US troops. The well of melancholy that lies beneath the military history is almost underplayed in Tuchman's treatise. But it is there and painfully real - we have yet to withdraw from the savagery that once humans could not imagine. This book is as relevant today as it was when it was written and as the story was when it happened.