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Love and Politics in Wartime: Letters to My Wife, 1943-45

Love and Politics in Wartime: Letters to My Wife, 1943-45

ISBN: 9780252018770
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
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$16.48

An intelligent and politically engaged man who was approaching forty, Ben Alper tried for nearly two years to join actively in the war against fascism. Finally, in September 1943, he was accepted by the army, assigned to the military police, and shipped out to serve in Northern Africa and Italy. Thus began a daily stream of letters to Ethel, his wife. Selected from among the eight hundred letters written during his two-year assignment, this collection reveals much about the impact of large political movements on everyday life and about the ways in which two people sustain their love throughout a long absence and over a great distance. Before the war, Ben and Ethel shared an involvement in politics. Both were committed to a vision of society that included economic justice; in the United States their idealism found focus in the New Deal and the labor movement, and internationally in antifascist struggles in Europe. They watched the triumphs of Mussolini and Hitler with horror, and they supported the Allied resistance to them after the outbreak of war in 1939. Ben's decision to enlist was based on an overwhelming desire to be part of the action he so strongly supported. Ben Alper's assignment was largely managerial, so his letters contain few of the descriptions of battles and death that we associate with wartime accounts. What they tell about are the effects of war on ordinary people; young soldiers, villagers, children; about the political attitudes and practices of British and American military commanders and soldiers, Italian workers and business leaders, Yugoslav officials and partisans; and about the values and vision of Alper himself. For Ethel, a professional artist, Ben craftedletters to evoke an emotional as well as visual response. One sees in brilliant color and detail some of the scenes he describes. Unlike a diary, these letters were addressed to a specific person and served both to create and sustain a relationship with her. These are intimate love

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