The War In Eastern Europe
by John Reed, 1916.
John Reed’s book is a first hand account of Serbia, Russia, Bulgaria and Greece during WWI, from April 1915, through October 1915. He and a fellow journalist travel to Europe with hopes of experiencing great events and turning points in the war, and instead find lulls in fighting, and every day life in the warn torn countries that he refers to as “the business of war.” I love his writing style – he is witty, keenly observant, a great story teller and a real adventurer. He would have been in Serbia about the same time as Dr Edward Ryan, who was the American doctor who treated typhus patients in Belgrade for the Red Cross, another romantic adventurer. I would have loved to have met these two guys – talented high risk takers who lived life to the limit, no holds barred, and who died young because of it.
Reed’s powers of observation about the everyday, mundane aspects of life lived during these difficult times paints a picture that no history books of war have depicted before, at least not for me. You feel as if you are on that trip with him, experiencing these events first hand.
John was born into a family of affluence in Oregon, grew up to be an avid socialist, was an ardent supporter of the Red Army Bolsheviks, and for those reasons he was severely criticized in the US as a dilettante and playboy, and as a result, his books were not always well received. He died young and tragically of typhus in Russia in 1920, about the same time my great grandfather, Paul Milec, was walking home across Siberia after having fought against the Bolsheviks with the Czechoslovak Legion. His most famous book, Ten Days That Shook The World, was the basis for the 1981 Warren Beatty movie, Reds, in which Beatty played John Reed, and Diane Keaton, who played his wife.
The War In Eastern Europe is in the public domain, and you can read it by clicking here.