The Long March by William Styron

Long march, short book. I wonder if it’s unfashionable to read Styron these days, noting just one of my GR friends have read this. Or maybe it has other issues: because it’s a war book and who hasn’t read enough of them?

But this one’s different. It has two clear themes running through it. One is war and the army and we hear all the things we expect to. War’s bad. Even if you aren’t actually there, just training. But entwined in this story is the one about a type of person and a type of relationship. It’s told as the colonel vs the honest, cynical captain, who is determined to win his personal battle with the colonel by forcing his not competent for the exercise men to get through the long march imposed on them. But it could be any boss with any employee, it’s a story you see every day, the one where the boss is a sort of bully who catches the employee in that attitude of okay, I’m going to do every fucking unreasonable thing you tell me to and that’s going to make me the winner. But the incredibly sad truth is, it doesn’t make the employee the winner. It makes the employer the winner and to make matters worse, he doesn’t even care. He doesn’t even really notice that he’s won. And yet it is so hard not to engage, even though the bully triumphs whatever you do.

This is a marvellous book about such a heroic character who can’t win. It is beautifully told, takes a couple of hours to read. Throughout I had a picture in my head of who would be in the movie. George Rossi. Perfect.

 

george-rossi

And as luck would have it when I went online to find a picture of him, I saw this, a video featuring him which struck me as rather serendipitous: