Johnny Got His Gun: A Novel
Johnny Got His Gun is often called one of the most shocking war books ever written. It was written by Dalton Trumbo and published one week after Germany invaded Poland on the first of September 1939. It is not only a powerful anti-war document, it is also an example of an overwhelming and magnificent imagination.
On the last day of the First World War, Joe Bonham is completely shot up. Because the medics can get him out on time, and the doctors present have time on their hands, they can experiment freely on the remains of the young soldier, he stays alive. Without legs, arms, ears, eyes, nose and mouth, but with his brains intact, and still capable of normal thought. The only means of communicating that is left available to him is kicking his head on his pillow and producing morse code. These 'silent words' are eventually understood by his nurse. "What do you want?", she asks of him. "To be part of the outside world," he replies. The young soldier shows himself as a living dead, as thinking dead, in response to the question of whether there is something worthy dying for. The answer he receives is of a fierce cruelty.
This was no ordinary war. This was a war to make the world safe for democracy. And if democracy was made safe, then nothing else mattered—not the millions of dead bodies, nor the thousands of ruined lives. . . . This is no ordinary novel. This is a novel that never takes the easy way out: it is shocking, violent, terrifying, horrible, uncompromising, brutal, remorseless and gruesome . . . but so is war.
Praise for Johnny Got His Gun
“[It is] very hard to write about Johnny Got His Gun without being guilty of understatement or hysterics. It is a terrifying book, of an extraordinary emotional intensity.”—Washington Post
“An extraordinarily agitating book, passionate in its language, potent in its emotional effect, a novel that tells in unsparingly honest words what a wickedly gruesome business war is, and how wickedly wasteful. Johnny Got His Gun, full of horror and hurt, will be a terrific and vivid experience for anyone who reads it.”—Boston Herald
“It is hard to imagine a more persuasive argument for staying out of war than this smooth, savage, brilliant tale.”—Chicago Daily News