20 June 2014

The Great Canadian Great War Novel

Tomorrow marks the day that Peregrine Acland's All Else is Folly officially returns to print. That more than eight decades have passed since the last edition defies explanation. This was a novel praised by Bertrand Russell, Frank Harris, Havelock Ellis, and prime ministers Robert Borden and Mackenzie King. So impressed was Ford Madox Ford that he penned a preface. In short, All Else is Folly is the very best Great War novel written by a Canadian combatant.

I had a time trying to interest publishers in reissuing the novel. It was my good fortune that in the midst of that effort I encountered James Calhoun, with whom I co-authored the Introduction to this new edition. No one knows more about Acland.

No one.

His writing at Field Punishment No. 1 is an invuluable contribution to our understanding of Canada's Great War literature. I've never met a more dogged researcher.

Not once.

Now Acland's novel finds a home with Dundurn's Voyageur Classics, where it joins The Refugee: Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada, Wyndham Lewis'Self Condemned and other unjustly neglected books from our past. Thanks go out to Series Editor Michael Gnarowski, who recognized the importance and terrible beauty of this, Acland's only novel.

I never imagined that my name would one day share a cover with that of Ford Madox Ford, but there it is. A better man than I, the last words on the novel should be his:
When I read of the marching and fighting towards the end of the book, I feel on my skin the keen air of the early mornings standing to, I have in my mouth the dusky tastes, in my eyes the dusky landscapes, in my ears the sounds that were silences interrupted by clicking of metal on metal that at any moment might rise to the infernal clamour of Armageddon… Yes, indeed,one lives it again with the fear and with the nausea… and the surprised relief to find oneself still alive. I wish I could have done it myself: envy, you see, will come creeping in. But since I couldn't, the next best thing seems to me to be to say that it will be little less than a scandal if the book is not read enormously widely. And that is the truth. 


  1. Read this a couple years back and remember that it was worth reading, but can't remember anything that happened. I'll have to dig it out again.

    1. You're fortunate to have a copy, Beau, there aren't a lot being offered for sale. When you find it, give Part Two a second read. This is the stuff that so impressed Ford.

  2. Thanks for helping this to see publication again. So many great books become forgotten.

    1. Thank you, Kelly. I have a theory as to why All Else is Folly slipped out of print… and another as to why it was never revived. Anyway, it's back now, ready for new generations to discover.