The Second World War. Pacific theater of military operations. The history of the landing and capture by the Americans of the fictional island of Anapopey, where the Japanese concentrated, develops as it were on several levels. It is a chronicle of military operations, a detailed reconstruction of the atmosphere of the everyday life of the war, this is a psychological portrait of a man in the war, given through a combination of images of individual representatives of the American landing; it is the image of pre-war America growing up in the background and finally an essay novel about power.
The composition of the novel is determined by the existence of three sections. Actually the narrative – the story of the assault and capture of Anapopia – is interrupted by dramatic inclusions, where the voices of the characters make themselves felt, without author’s comments, and also by excursions into the past of the characters. The time machine is a short biography of the heroes representing the most diverse social groups and regions of America. Irishman Roy Gallagher, Mexican Martinez, Texan Sam Croft, Brooklyn Jew Joe Goldstein, Pole Kazimir Zhenvich and many others appear before the readers as “the most representative representatives” of the country where in times of peace there is a fierce struggle for existence and only the strongest survive.
War – the usual state of humanity, as depicted by its author. Americans fight with the Japanese for Anapopey, and at the same time soldiers, as they know how, defend their small rights and privileges in the struggle against each other and officers, and they, in turn, fight for ranks and titles, for prestige. Especially clearly the confrontation between authoritarian General Edward Cummings and his adjutant Lieutenant Robert Hearn.
The history of small successes and failures of Hirna is a reflection of the ambiguous position of liberal intellectuals in the pragmatic world. Before the war, Hearn tried to find himself in public activities, but his contacts with the Communists and trade union leaders are unfruitful. There is a growing sense of frustration and fatigue in him, a feeling that an attempt to put into practice the ideals is just vanity of vanities, and the only thing that remains of the subtle, unordinary personality is “to live without losing style,” which, according to Hirnu, is akin to the Hemingway code of the present men. He desperately tries to keep at least the appearance of freedom and defend his dignity.
But the chief Hirna, looking at the Napoleons Edward Cummings, has a good nose for “sedition” and tries to put in place the obstinate adjutant. If Hyrne wanders from one vague half-truth to another, then Cummings knows no doubt and, distorting in his own way the thinkers of the past, mumbles the aphorism behind the aphorism: “The fact that you have a gun, and the other does not have an accident, but the result of all that, that you have reached “; “We live in the middle of a century of a new era, we are on the verge of a revival of unlimited power”; “The army acts much better if you are afraid of the person who stands above you, and treat contemptuously and arrogantly to the subordinates”; “The machinery of our time requires consolidation, and this is impossible if there is no fear, because most people must become slaves to machines,
Cummings’s second world argument is equally important for understanding the image of the general and the military machine: “Historically, the goal of this war is to turn America’s potential energy into a kinetic one.” If you think about it carefully, the concept of fascism is very viable, because it relies on instincts. that fascism was born not in that country… We have the power, material means, armed forces. The vacuum of our life as a whole is filled with liberated energy, and there is no doubt that we left the backstairs history… “
Fascism in the novel exists on two levels – ideological and everyday.
If Edward Cummings is an ideologist and even a poet of fascism, then Sam Croft is a spontaneous fascist, receiving genuine pleasure...from violence. As the Time Machine testifies, for the first time Croft killed a man while still in the ranks of the National Guard. He deliberately shot the striker, although the team was shooting into the air. War gives Croft a unique opportunity to kill on official grounds – and enjoy it. He will treat the captive Japanese with chocolate, look at photos of his wife and children, but as soon as something resembles a human community, Croft coldly shoots the Japanese at point-blank range. So he is more interesting.
Having failed to find a place in peaceful America, Lieutenant Hearn can not find himself in the conditions of war either. He is a stranger both among soldiers and among officers. Experiencing a dislike for the fascist boss, he decides on a desperate act. After appearing in the tent to the general and not finding the latter, he leaves a note – and a cigarette butt on the floor, than plunges into the fury of his boss. He hurriesly calls Hirna, conducts an educational conversation with him, and then drops a new cigarette butt to the floor and causes the obstinate adjutant to pick it up. Hirn carries out the order of the general – and thus concedes to his will. Henceforth, Cummings will dispense with his services, and the lieutenant will be transferred to a reconnaissance platoon. Sergeant Croft, who was there before this chief, is by no means delighted and ready to do anything to get rid of unnecessary care.
Soon, the reconnaissance squad goes to task, and Croft has an excellent opportunity to restore the status quo and his position as commander. Hiding the data about the Japanese ambush, he watches calmly as the lieutenant goes to the Japanese machine gun, so that a few moments later die.
It seems that strong personalities triumph. Lieutenant Hearn died, the island was captured by the Americans, but this victory is a matter of blind chance.
Carefully designed by Cummings operation to capture Anapopea requires serious support from the sea. The general goes to the headquarters to persuade the superiors of the need to allocate warships for his needs. But while he is negotiating, while the platoon of the leaders is climbing Mount Anak to go to the rear to the enemy, the most untalented Major Dulleson is making a clearly erroneous attack. But instead of suffering a shameful defeat, the Americans gain a brilliant victory. A random shell kills the Japanese commander, and his closest assistants perish. In the ranks of the Japanese panic begins. Warehouses with ammunition and food become easy prey for Americans, who soon easily take possession of the island.
Both Cummings and Croft are out of work. The victory took place in spite of their efforts. His Majesty the Absurd is triumphant. As if amusing over the attempts of American commanders of all levels to direct life into the channel of cause-effect dependencies, he turns to nothing the attempts of aggressive pragmatists. The person remains alone with a mysterious, impenetrable reality, where there are more enemies than allies, where dark, hidden forces are raging against which resistance is useless. The moral-edification is uttered by one of the soldiers of Croft’s platoon, the elemental absurdist Volsen: “Man bears his burden while he can carry it, and then gets out of the way.” He alone is at war against everyone and everything, and it finally breaks him. “He turns out to be a small cog which squeaks and groans if the machine is running too fast. “
The next appearance of the “choir” is now connected with the question: “What will we do after the war?” Soldiers speak differently, but no one is particularly happy at the thought that it will be possible to withdraw the military uniform, although the army for most of them is not a panacea for all ills. The summary of the short discussion will be summed up by Sergeant Croft: “It’s a waste of time to think about these things.” The war will continue for a long time. “
War of all with all. Outside America and on its territory.