In Search of the Pro-War Novel

Interesting question first posed at Mark Kleiman’s place (raised by a reader):

Are there any modern (say post 1700) novels of high literary merit that can reasonably be characterized as pro-war? Or, at least as pro-war as the Iliad?

Kleiman offers Starship Troopers but wonders about the definition of “high literary merit.”

The discussion is taken up over at The American Scene by Ross Douthat:

It depends, I suppose, on what one means by pro-war. There have been plenty of novels that could be considered pro-war in the sense of being “in favor of going to war to defeat a given enemy.” (War and Peace is an obvious example — there’s no doubt that Tolstoy, in spite of all his pacifist tendencies, is very much in favor of the Russians defending their country from Napoleon by force of arms.) But if by “pro-war” you mean “in favor of combat as a good in and of itself,” then it’s hard to think of any major post-Christian work of literature that compares seriously to the Iliad in its celebration of martial glory.

I am going to pretend people read this blog and comment (rather than surf over from Google and quickly leave) and ask the audience what they think. Any “pro-war” novels spring to mind?

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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1 Comment

  • That is a difficult one…..I would say that in some senses Black Hawk Down might fit that bill. Gates of Fire by Pressfield was surely pro-war to me as was the Civil War novels The Last Full Measure, THe Killer Angels, and the like…

    Sure they have what I guess you can call “moral moments” about the horrors of war yet there is certainly a “delight” in the heroism of men in the midst of the chaotic battlefield that flows from these works.