Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Conversation with Adam Hochschild

To End All Wars, Adam Hochschild's newest book, is an intense and riveting examination of the first World War and the people who both fought in it and stood against it. In his New York Times review, Christopher Hitchens describes it as "a book to make one feel deeply and painfully, and also to think hard."

A respected writer and historian, Adam has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of numerous other awards for his work.

Adam Hochschild will be visiting Kepler's on Wednesday, May 25th, at 7:00 PM. For more information, please follow this link.

Megan Kurashige: To End All Wars is your seventh book. What drew you to writing about WWI? What is it about a subject that fascinates you enough to write a book about it?

Adam Hochschild: I had some sources of personal interest in the war, chiefly that an uncle of mine, whom I wrote about in my first book, Half the Way Home: A Memoir of Father and Son, fought in the war. But the First World War is well worth anyone being interested in, because it killed some 20 million people, military and civilian, and remade the world for the worse in almost every conceivable way.

MK: Can you describe some of your research for this book? When you go to a specific location, how do you record and absorb the details that make your work such a vivid reading experience?

AH: Most of my work was in libraries and archives. But I did twice visit the old Western Front, once in France and once in Belgium, looked for places that figured in my narrative, and tried to imagine what it was like in them some 90 years ago. I always like to try to go to the places where the history I’m writing about happened. I like to think it brings me closer to it.

MK: In this book, you introduce the reader to a large number of compelling historical characters, resurrecting them in an intensely human way that I might more frequently associate with fiction. How do you balance the demands of a compelling narrative with the rigors of journalistic accuracy?

AH: If you’re writing history or nonfiction, as I am, there can be no sacrifice of accuracy. Not one ounce. If I say that someone felt a certain way on a particular day, it’s because he or she said so in a letter or diary entry—and generally I quote that. People are colorful and interesting and complicated enough as they are. You don’t have to invent a single detail to have full-fledged characters.

MK: You have compared WWI to current military conflicts in the Middle East that the U. S. is involved in, pointing out similarities in rhetoric, motives, and outcomes. How can educating ourselves about history enable us to see the contemporary world more clearly?

AH: One would hope that knowing history better would help our leaders avoid the folly of needless war today, but unfortunately I don’t see many signs of that!

MK: Why do you write? Why do you favor narrative journalism as a medium?

AH: I write because I can’t imagine anything else I’d rather do. I love reading fiction, but I seem to be better at writing nonfiction, so that’s the direction I’ve taken. It’s work I’m very grateful for. And, unlike quarterbacks or ballet dancers, writers never have to retire.


Kelly Garriott Waite said...

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Rommel Peter Fernandes said...

Thanks for the interview. Need to check this book.
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