Rommel in North Africa.
Sunday, March 15, 2009

Killing Rommel

This is a novel by Steven Pressfield about the Long Range Desert Group, and its attempts, during the African campaign, to kill Rommel. Needless to say we know how the story ends.

Most of what I read about WW II is written not on individuals, but on larger units, i.e., companies, divisions, etc. Even novels that focus on individuals, such as Once an Eagle by Anton Myers, one of my favorites, don’t go into the nitty gritty of conducting operations as much as this one. We hear about broken axles, fixing trucks in the desert, and so on. I don’t mean to give the impression that this is for some guy who longs to tinker with big machines like tanks. It focuses on small unit operations in the desert against the enemy.

Given that we know how the raids against Rommel turned out, the question is how is the novel in other respects? The prinicipal characters, Chapman and the others, are fairly distinct. There is a bit about the desert, and it points to, but doesn’t go all the along the path toward the desert as a spiritual metaphor. T. E. Lawrence had an attraction to the desert, and the early hermits and monks sought spiritual growth in the deserts of Egypt and Arabia. Chapman has a bit of the same feeling at several points in the novel, but it’s never fully exploited or explored.

There is some reflection on war and its brutality, and the possibility of chivalrous treatment, war without hate, as exemplified by Rommel, and in part by Chapman. (War Without Hate Is cited in the novel as a book by Rommel. A quick search of Amazon doesn’t turn up that title, but there is Attacks, which is over on the sidebar.)

Overall, it is a gripping, well written account on the individual level of combat in the desert.

Next up, we return to Rome with Livy.