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Beste Gelegenheit zum Sterben: Meine Erlebnisse im Kriege 1914-1918 Edited by Angelika Tramitz anD Bernd Ulrich/415pp./DM 42 Munich: Knesebeck und Schuler 1989/ISBN 3-926-90115-2

                               THE MANUSCRIPT

In 1989 the Munich publisher Knesebeck & Schuler published the wartime memoirs of a First World War private. This publication was made possible by the discovery of a typewritten copy of a manuscript found in a Military Archive in Freiburg by the historian Bernd Ulrich in 1987.

The original manuscript had been written by Dominik Richert - a farmworker who was called up by Prussian Army and who served four years at many locations on the Front. His miraculous survival allowed him to tell the tale. He called the account of his wartime experiences quite simply "My Experience of the War (1914-1918)'. The original manuscript was found in possession of Richert's sons. With the help of army records it was possible to verify its authenticity, and the text is now considered a source of particular interest for social and war historians. (See Roger Woods article in the Times Literary Supplement 1 July 1989). The work of establishing its authenticity was undertaken by the book,s editors, who also amended the author's title. Using a quote from the text as a title, the original title became the subtitle, hence Beste Gelegenheit zum Sterben: Meine Erlerbnisse im Kriege 1914-1918. Translated literall the full title means 'best opportunity to die: my experiences of the War (1914-1918). A translation of this title with the same idiomatic succinctness as the German might be: Way to a Certain Death? What I

Experienced in the War (1914-1918). Such a title would however be unsatisfactory from a translator's point of view.

                                  THE TEXT AND ITS AUTHOR
 Dominik Richert's gift with words was instanced throughout his long life: As a much loved story teller within the family circle; as a respected narrator of his wartime experiences among his comrades in the rural community of St.Ulrich, Alsace-Lorraine. The reputation he achieved as a narrator is not hard to imagine for anyone who has read Beste Gelegenheit zmn Sterben. His writing style is disciplined. Most interestingly, he avoids obscuring the immediacy of a reported incident with reflections based on hindsight. Immediacy is also achieved through his close attention to carefully observed detail. He is also quick to refer to motives for actions that were uppermost in his mind at the time. The straightforward way in which he expresses himself is dramatic in its impact, and leaves vivid images in the mind of the reader.