Author Topic: Sven Hassel  (Read 615 times)

Paul Calf

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Sven Hassel
« on: October 09, 2017, 10:31:08 PM »
Bit of a strange one for my first book thread this, but does anyone else like Sven Hassel? I first encountered his grisly anti-war polemic when I used to nick my dad’s copies of his books from the bookshelf on the landing, and have been hooked since, later completing my collection from the odd charity shop purchase. With luridly illustrated covers and suffering from an obvious comparison to the earlier Erich Maria Remarque, I always felt a measure of guilt for being fascinated by Hassel’s work. Then I discovered others similarly entranced. Alistair McCrae said:

It may be that this is a book that will make you sick. If so, my advice to you is to read it and be sick, for such sickness is humanity’s only hope for a sane and healthy world.

This is something that’s stuck with me through the decades and is supremely relevant now we’re losing the last generation to remember how horrible war actually is.

I also discovered that Morrissey used to read Hassel while he was waiting for buses. The image of a young Stephen Patrick with his head in a book while a Manchester sky the colour of wet salt pissed industrialised acid rain around him was a small comfort in the days before Moz turned into a total arse.

The characters are unforgettable, the bleakness of their hopeless situation contrasting with the vitality of their portrayal. I don’t think I’ll ever put them down forever.

He died in Barcelona in 2010. I keep meaning to go to Wind Force 11 in Hamburg. One day.

Re: Sven Hassel
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2017, 11:15:36 PM »
I did enjoy the books, though I have read much better since.

There is a huge difference in style and quality between the older and newer books. Stories like Legion of the Damned and Comrades Of War read almost like memoirs, whilst later novels like The Bloody Road to Death and The Commisar are sensationalist and are effectively especially gory action adventure novels. The earlier novels are much better.

One of my friends was caught reading one of the books by his English teacher, the book had been borrowed from Sutton library, she complained to the library about children being allowed to borrow such books and as a result, no children's cards could be used to borrow adult books in the entire library system. Not fun as a 12 year old.

Last year I got an old history book about the Italian campaign from a charity shop. it quoted a passage from Monte Cassino as if it was the first hand reference of a veteran. At that point I put the book in the bin.