In search of the pro-war novel:
    We have a winner!

For Whom the Bell Tolls, of course.

My reader’s innocent question about whether there was a pro-war novel of obviously high literary quality written since 1700 produced lots of interesting (to me, at least) definitional discussion and a wealth of interpretative material, but no unambiguous counterexample (i.e., a well known document that a literature professor wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen reading, not fantasy or SF, not “historical” as in the Aubrey/Maturin series, not pure genre fiction of the Tom Clancy variety).

Until now, that is. Two readers finally had the blinding flash of the obvious we had all been missing: For Whom the Bell Tolls. (One of them also mentioned Islands in the Stream.) You don’t have to like Hemingway’s prose, but it’s hard to deny For Whom the Bell Tolls canonical status. And it’s undeniably as “pro-war” in tone as Homer is: not a polemic in favor of warfare in the abstract, but a presentation of the acts of war as worthy of critical appreciation.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: