Despised and Rejected by A.T. Fitzroy (the pseudonym for Rose Allatini) was not only one of the  first novels to be written about the Great War when it was released in the spring of 1918, it also staked out a position which it continues to share with very few novels, as a great outlier from the common expectations of war fiction.

Universally expected to be over by Christmas, 1914, WWI was still, horrifically, going on as 1918 dawned. Few war-themed novels had been released in any of the belligerent countries.  Short stories  by Arthur Machen, Rudyard Kipling and D.H. Lawrence had appeared in literary magazines. Poems by Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke and Ezra Pound had been published, as well as thousands by patriotic British in daily newspapers.  H.G. Well’s Mr Britling Sees It Through, a stiff upper lip, home-front novel had been published in 1916. In France, the most widely read, and damning of war novels, La Feu (Under Fire) by Henri Barbusse  was published in 1916 and translated to English almost immediately.  It sold over 300,000 copies in France alone.  In the United States,  its troops just barely on French soil,  Ellen Newbold La Motte, a frontline nurse in France, wrote a scathing collection, The Backwash of War: The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by an American Hospital Nurse¹; Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s novel Home Fires in France and Edith Wharton’s The Marne also appeared. In Germany Ernst Junger’s celebrated Storm of Steel was two years in the future.  The great surge of WWI fiction was to wait until 1929 with Remarque’s  All Quiet in the Western Front, Hemingway’s, A Farewell to ArmsDeath of a Hero by Richard Aldington, and the first of The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederick Manning.  Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy did not appear until 1930.

Despised and Rejected, is not a war-combat novel.  Like Wells’ Mr. Britling, it is set entirely in England, during a time of war.  Unlike Wells, it takes up very fraught matters, under one rubric, that of “abnormality.” It was was banned as soon as it was released, a scandal on two fronts: pacifism, not only as social fact, but as well argued, cogent, arguments strongly advanced.  Young, healthy men are willing to go to prison, endure hard labor and straight-jacket enforced solitary confinement, rather than fight.   

And, two of the men are homosexuals – in love with each other.  Continue reading »