In Another Country by Ernest Hemingway, 1926
The magic trick:
Making a large comment on international affairs through short fiction
Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Hemingway’s hammer falls fast on America.
One paragraph, you’re celebrating with the narrator the pride of soldiers who know mutually shared sacrifice. We’re all in this together. It was tough, but we did it! And then the very next page, you’re feeling America’s guilt, profiting from a war won on costs this country will never truly understand. It becomes quickly clear that the American narrator will not carry this war experience with him in the same ways as his European counterparts. He has not lost a wife. He has not lost his face. Hell, he can still play football someday if he so chooses.
It’s a comment on massive, global issues being made through the microscopic lens of one man’s story. And that’s quite a trick on Hemingway’s part.
The boys at first were very polite about my medals and asked me what I had done to get them. I showed them my papers, which were written in very beautiful language and full of fratellanza and abnegazione, but which really said, with the adjectives removed, that I had been given the medals because I was an American. After that their manner changed a little toward me, although I was their friend against outsiders. I was a friend, but I was never really one of them after they had read the citations, because it had been different with them and they had done very different things to get their medals.