Good-Bye to All That

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Good-Bye to All That, an autobiography by Robert Graves, first appeared in print in 1929. The title expresses Graves' disillusionment in the existence of traditional, stable values in European and English society. Graves first wrote the work in his thirties, when he had a long and eventful life ahead of him; the book deals mainly with his childhood, youth and military service. Laura Riding, Graves' lover, is credited with being a "spiritual and intellectual midwife" to the work, which made him famous.[1]

A large part of the book is taken up by his experiences of the First World War, where he gives a detailed description of trench warfare, including the tragic incompetences of the Battle of Loos. The book contains a secondhand description of the killing of German prisoners of war by British troops; although Graves had not witnessed any incidents himself and knew of no large-scale massacres, he had been told about a number of incidents where prisoners had been killed individually or in small groups, consequently he was prepared to believe that a proportion of Germans who surrendered never made it to prisoner-of-war camps.

"Nearly every instructor in the mess" he wrote, "could quote specific instances of prisoners having been murdered on the way back. The commonest motives were, it seems, revenge for the death of friends or relatives, [and] jealousy of the prisoner's trip to a comfortable prison camp in England".

Graves was severely traumatized by his war experience. After he was wounded, he endured a five day train journey amid squalor and unchanged bandages. The trench telephone scared him such that he never lived with the technology for the rest of his life. Upon his return home, he describes being haunted by ghosts and nightmares.[2]


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