Whicker’s War

Is Alan Whicker beginning to be a forgotten name? I hope not, since he always had an eye for a memorable moment and he always kept the focus of his stories on the people he was talking about. No relentless cutaways to show him nodding or smiling or looking moved.

The only downside to this approach was that when it came to talking about himself, Whicker managed to remain on the sidelines. So his autobiography became a (very readable) recounting of his most memorable interviews. You learned next to nothing about the man himself.

It’s the same here, in his account of his time as a young officer in the British Army Film Unit during World War II, in Italy. Very readable. Full of great stories. (A drunken GI who wandered towards the enemy lines, only to be considerately turned around by the Germans and pointed in the right direction home.)

Yet even though he keeps referring to how dangerous everything was, and how often in fear for his life he was, he never describes any of the situations in which this happened. The war remains at a remove, observed from a safe distance. We’re told about the danger, but we never experience it.

It’s a good book. But you won’t learn a thing about what it felt like to carry a camera into battle instead of a weapon.

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