The voice of the dead. (5 stars)
The very premise of Above the Dreamless Dead is a chilling one: poems written during or after World War I by veterans illustrated by several authors. And the result is a at the same time beautiful and eerie testimony of the conflict that inaugurated modern warfare.
Every conflict brings forth the same question: how can you explain the horror of war to civilians in time of peace? The simple answer is that you can’t. All we can do here from our air-conditioned and belly-filled perspective is try to capture echoes and shadows of this past.
And the words of the dead are the most definite echoes of the war. The authors of the “trench poems” in Above the Dreamless Dead are from different backgrounds, literature students to boys with no formal education who wrote as a way to try and escape from the war. The combination of these texts with the illustrations is striking, like a soldier that contemplates a decomposing body lit by the stars in no man’s land in The Great Push, or the criticism of generals in Dead man’s Dump. The book also has some laid-back moments, like the extremely funny melodies sung bu the soldiers, with themes like “fornicating until death” or telling the Sergent to shove the license pass up his ass.
The illustration style varies a lot, but I found all of them beautiful in their own way, from the more realistic to the cartoony ones. You can notice how the artists really cared for the source material. Above the Dreamless Dead is an incredible book about war that should be read by everyone, in the hope that one day they may be gone for good.