The Burning of the World: A Memoir of 1914 (New York Review Books Classics)
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Publishing during the 100th Anniversary of the First World War
An NYRB Classics Original
The budding young Hungarian artist Béla Zombory-Moldován was on holiday when the First World War broke out in July 1914. Called up by the army, he soon found himself hundreds of miles away, advancing on Russian lines and facing relentless rifle and artillery fire. Badly wounded, he returned to normal life, which now struck him as unspeakably strange. He had witnessed, he realized, the end of a way of life, of a whole world.
Published here for the first time in any language, this extraordinary reminiscence is a powerful addition to the literature of the war that defined the shape of the twentieth century.
sustained economic boom in which industry, trade, and construction took off at a rapid rate—above all, in Budapest, which was formed in 1873 with the unification of the twin cities of the ancient Buda on the west bank of the Danube and the vigorously expanding modern Pest on its east bank. This confident new metropolis built the world’s second underground railway system, public buildings that rivaled (and, in the case of the vast neo-Gothic parliament building, surpassed) those of Vienna in
over it. It does quite nicely. “Gather them, maid, to rest my head.” Night falls. Fog fills the deeper hollow ahead of us, lapping it like a quilt, and slowly swelling towards us. If it reaches us, everything we have will be soaking wet: these dewdrops can fall horizontally. I settle down into my hole, and after an initial shiver I fall asleep. In my sleep I can feel the shivers running along my back gradually strengthen into shuddering, and then into shaking. I wake up, shake Jóska awake, and
heir, the archduke Franz Ferdinand (shortly to visit the recently annexed province of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its capital, Sarajevo), loathed all Hungarians was a poorly kept secret. What would the future hold for Hungary once the shrewd old patriarch of the “brotherhood of nations” was gone? Such anxieties simmered just below a surface of apparent stability and confidence in material progress. Cultural and intellectual life in Budapest—a city widely admired for its elegance and modernity—was in
the remaining men and NCOs. There’s an officer shortage. Senior NCOs will take over command of some units.” Under the direction of the adjutant, the men form up in twos; facing them, the NCOs. A small group of the remaining officers stand to one side. I lie down. One of the reserve lieutenants comes over. “What’s the matter with you? You look dreadful. You’re not doing anything: a sudden movement could finish you.” At that moment, six shrapnel shells howl overhead. The line of NCOs takes a
acquired range, a battery of field artillery would lay down concentrated fire to “sweep” a given target area. The other side’s reserve troops would be held what was considered a safe distance outside that area until required in the front line, but remained vulnerable to “nuisance fire.” 4. Austro-Hungarian military doctrine required infantry to advance line abreast in “firing lines” (Schwarmlinien). 5. The Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 rifle was the standard infantry weapon of the Austro-Hungarian