Paul Fussell died a couple of weeks ago. I met him many years ago. He was an interesting man and a remarkable critic. He was one of that disappearing generation of academics who could write about the mythology of war and the literature of war with the experience of front-line combat. I just came across an interview he gave to The Atlantic in 1997. In the course of it, he criticises the rosy view we have of the 'Good War':
'We all know that the Second World War destroyed Germany, which had to be rebuilt, but most Americans don't know that it also ruined England -- through wartime expenditure, loss of life, and the damage England suffered in the bombings. It turned England from a powerful, imperial world presence into a third-rate Netherlands. It's just a pitiful little country now, desperately trying to keep up its morale with parades, horse guards and a Queen. But it is povery-stricken and pretty hopeless. The war caused that. The point is that you can't fight a war like that, so close to the enemy as the English were, and survive intact. You win, but you suffer a great deal.'
Oh dear, that's not what we want to hear. Let's change the subject and follow the progress of the Olympic torch processing around Britain instead.