The General: The Classic WWI Tale of Leadership

By C. S. Forester, Introduction by Max Hastings

The book John Kelly reads every time he gets a promotion to remind him of ‘the perils of hubris, the pitfalls of patriotism and duty unaccompanied by critical thinking’

The most vivid, moving – and devastating – word-portrait of a World War One British commander ever written, here re-introduced by Max Hastings.

C.S. Forester’s 1936 masterpiece follows Lt General Herbert Curzon, who fumbled a fortuitous early step on the path to glory in the Boer War. 1914 finds him an honourable, decent, brave and wholly unimaginative colonel. Survival through the early slaughters in which so many fellow-officers perished then brings him rapid promotion. By 1916, he is a general in command of 100,000 British soldiers, whom he leads through the horrors of the Somme and Passchendaele, a position for which he is entirely unsuited and intellectually unprepared.

Wonderfully human with Forester’s droll relish for human folly on full display, this is the story of a man of his time who is anything but wicked, yet presides over appalling sacrifice and tragedy. In his awkwardness and his marriage to a Duke’s unlovely, unhappy daughter, Curzon embodies Forester’s full powers as a storyteller. His half-hero is patriotic, diligent, even courageous, driven by his sense of duty and refusal to yield to difficulties. But also powerfully damned is the same spirit which caused a hundred real-life British generals to serve as high priests at the bloodiest human sacrifice in the nation’s history. A masterful and insightful study about the perils of hubris and unquestioning duty in leadership, The General is a fable for our times.

Format: ebook
Release Date: 13 May 2014
Pages: None
ISBN: 978-0-00-758006-4
C. S. Forester was born in Cairo in 1899. After studying medicine, he rose to fame with tales of naval warfare. On the outbreak of World War Two he worked for the British Ministry of Information in America writing propaganda. His most notable works were the twelve Horatio Hornblower books, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and ‘The African Queen’. His novels ‘A Ship of the Line’ and ‘Flying Colours’ were jointly awarded the 1938 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. He died in 1966.Max Hastings is the author of twenty-six books, most about conflict, and between 1986 and 2002 served as editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, then editor of the Evening Standard. He has won many prizes both for journalism and his books, of which the most recent are All Hell Let Loose, Catastrophe and The Secret War, best-sellers translated around the world. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, London and was knighted in 2002. He has two grown-up children, Charlotte and Harry, and lives with his wife Penny in West Berkshire, where they garden enthusiastically.

The book John Kelly reads every time he gets a promotion to remind him of ‘the perils of hubris, the pitfalls of patriotism and duty unaccompanied by critical thinking’ -

”'A superb novel. It blends Forester's preference for military subjects and solid unreflective characters, his irony, his grasp of history and his gift for lean, hypnotic narrative” - New York Times

”'The most penetrating and subtle study of a Regular army officer that I have ever read” - Observer