Fortunate Sons

by Timothy Lusch

Men In The Middle

The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning

Frederic Manning (1882-1935) was an Australian writer, poet, and soldier of the Great War. Out of his combat experience came The Middle Parts of Fortune, also published as Her Privates We. The latter title came from an edition in which the curse words were cut out. Later printings restore both title and expletives to their rightful place (the only version worth reading). Manning’s novel captures the grime and grind, boredom and blood, of life in the trenches. Born out of Manning’s brutal experience at the Somme, the novel was feted for its realism. Eliot, Hemingway, Pound, T.E. Lawrence, and others saw in it perhaps the truest depiction of the soldier in war. While Manning sheds light on the human condition through the prism of combat, his book also speaks with compassion toward all mankind under the stress of devastation and destruction. We have only to witness the heroism of our brothers and sisters facing Hurricane Harvey to see something of this.

“Death, of course, like chastity, admits of no degree; a man is dead or not dead, and a man is just as dead by one means as by another; but it is infinitely more horrible and revolting to see a man shattered and eviscerated, than to see him shot. And one sees such things; and one suffers vicariously, with the inalienable sympathy of man for man. One forgets quickly. The mind is averted as well as the eyes. It reassures itself after that first despairing cry: “It is I!”

“No, it is not I. I shall not be like that.”