The Beauty, and The Sorrow

An Intimate History of the First World War, by Peter Englund

The Beauty and the Sorrow-An Intimate History of the First World War

The Beauty and the Sorrow is a historical non-fiction memoir by Swedish author, and historian Peter Englund. In this book you will be able to feel the exact emotions of living through all fronts of World War I through the compiled stories, journal, and diary entries of twenty real life, living, individuals from all parts of the world in all different armies.

As it was said the people you come to know are very diverse. You first meet Laura de Turczynowicz a naive, rich, caring, and beautiful thirty-five year old American woman, married to a Polish aristocrat. She's followed by a bright little German school girl named Elfriede Kuhr who lives with her adoring Grandmother in Scneidemul Germany.

Some people you meet are brave, other cowards, others bored, villainous, insane, ambitious, benevolent, chivalrous, depressed, valorous, and disappointed. Three of our friends, (or enemies depending on what you think of the person) will die, and one will go crazy, another will return to life as before the war, while another becomes a hero. In all cases they are all real, and all living in World War One.

Author Biography, and Writers Purpose

Peter Englund is a Swedish historian, and author. He was born in 1957 at Boden Norbotten, Sweden, near the arctic circle. In 1980 he went to Uppsala, Sweden where he studied archaeology, theoretical philosophy, and history. After working as a part of the Swedish Military Intelligence, he returned to education, and rcieved a PHD on ideology.

His first book was "The Battle that Shook Europe-Poltova and the Birth of the Russian Empire", which was a huge success. In "The Beauty, and the Sorrow" he wanted to write a form of anti-history. It's called anti-history because, we aren't studying past events from a future perspective, where we know all the influences, facts, and situations. Rather than that, we study them from a present perspective where we don't know what will happen, but we do know what it was like, and that we needed to survive. This is to show us what it was really like to experience that event, in this case World War I.

Peter Englund is currently living in Upsalla, Sweden, and is married with four children.

World War One Timeline (1914-1919), Alliances, and Casualties


  • June 28th: The Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife are assassinated at Sarajevo.
  • July 28th: Austria declares war on Serbia
  • August 1st: Germany declares war on Russia, who mobilized to aid Serbia
  • August 3rd: Germany declares war on France, and invades Belgium
  • August 4th: Great Britain declares war on Germany
  • October 29th: The Ottoman Empire enters the war on Germany's side


  • May 7th: The Lusitania is sunk by a German U-Boat
  • May 23rd: Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary
  • August 5th: Germany occupies Warsaw, Poland


  • February 21st: Start of the Battle of Verdun
  • May 31st: Major Naval battle at Jutland, Britain defeats Germany
  • July 1st: The Battle of the Somme begins
  • September 15th: First use of tanks at the Battle of the Somme


  • March 9th: Food riots in Petrograd, Russia break into the Russian Revolution
  • April 6th: The United States of America declares war on Germany
  • November 7th: Bolsheviks (Communists) take power in Petrograd, Russia following a coup
  • December 2nd: Peace negotiations between Germany, and the Russian Bolsheviks followed by peace on March 3, 1918


  • July 15th: The Battle of the Marne
  • September 3rd: A general German retreat behind the Hindenburg Line
  • October 30th: The Ottoman Empire capitulates
  • October 31st: Revolution in Vienna, Austria dissolves the duel Austro-Hungarian monarchy
  • November 9th: German Republic proclaimed after a revolution in Berlin causes Kaiser Wilhem II to abdicate
  • November 11th: Armistice, all fighting ceases at eleven o'clock in the morning


  • June 28th: The treaty of Versailles was signed by the Germans

Central Powers

  • Germany
  • Austria-Hungary
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Bulgaria

Allied Powers

  • Great Britain
  • France
  • Russia
  • United States of America
  • Italy
  • Serbia
  • Japan
  • Australia

Neutral Nations

  • Switzerland
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Arabia
  • Denmark


"This is going to be our evil inheritance, or our good inheritance, in any case our irrevocable inheritance- and we are going to be fettered by our memories forever."

-Paolo Monelli 1918

In this quote 0f Paolo Monelli, a twenty-three year old trooper in the Alpine regiment of the Italian army, we learn an important concept, which is for better, or for worse this is going to be an inherited part of us. Whether he liked it, or not, and whether it was for his greater good, or destruction the war would be there, and he would never forget it. So too are the major events that shape our lives, but we can choose whether they will have a good, or bad impact on us.

"Go to war not for the sake of goods and gold, not for your homeland or for honour, nor to seek the death of your enemies, but to strengthen your character, to strengthen it in power and will in habits custom and earnestness. That is why I want to go to war."

-Kresten Andresen 1914

In this quote of Kresten Andresen, a twenty-three year old Danish soldier in the German army, we learn about what war can do for us. Inevitably war is a horrible thing, and no good comes from it, but its conclusion, however Kresten is determined to let anger, or fanaticism affect him, but instead decides to use this gruesome event as a time to make himself better. Just like him, we can take the agonizing points in our lives, and turn them around for our own benefit.

Major Themes

I could name off a whole long list of themes I noticed, but I will only name a few.

  • Hate: A Venezuelan Cavalryman named Rafael de Nogales in the Ottoman army witness the destruction of both a Mosque, and Cathedral at a Serbia city. He also witnesses the monstrous slaughter of thousands of Serbian, Syrian, and other types of Christians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Love: The American wife of Polish diplomat Stainilsaw de Turczynowicz, Laura, feels love love so strongly for her children, and her husband. She longs for to return to their home in Suwalki, Poland, and is constantly worried if he will come back, or not. Meanwhile she loves her children so much she takes all the time in the world caring for them as they go through hunger, and typhus.
  • Hope: Everyone hopes for the war to end soon. Of these Kresten Andresen hopes to be able to go back to Germany, where he may be able to meet with his family.
  • Work: Everybody has full on labor. From an Australian Engineer, William Henry Dawkins, finding water in the desert, Russian Engineer, Andrei Lobanov-Rostovsky, digging trenches, Scottish soup kitchen worker, Sarah Macnaughten, or American Army Surgeon, Harvey Cushing, working with the injured at a hospital in Paris, France.


  1. The Black Bread-pg. 124: In May 1915 Laura de Turczynowicz is in her home, when she hears screaming. A German nurse, (Germans had occupied the Polish town) screaming at a Russian prisoner to stop digging through some trash cans. He had apparently seen a piece of bread covered in black mold, and began scarfing it down. The nurse looked faint at the sight, and Laura suggested to her they actually feed the prisoners with actual food. This represents to me how horrible war is that people would treat other people like rodents.
  2. The White Bread-pg. 128: In On May 2, 1915 a Hungarian Cavalryman, Pal Kelemen, is in a town where the bakery is having a sale on white bread. It is so rare for people to have good quality food, and prices have sky rocketed so that he scrounges up enough money to buy four loaves of white bread. As he sits down to eat it, and bights it is beyond his wildest dreams. It's just a homemade peice of bread, but it's so sweet, and it melts in his mouth. As he takes another bight he cannot comprehend that bread was normal before the war. This is a symbol of how normal objects become precious.
  3. The Dirigible: In 1915 a would be Belgian air force pilot, Willy Coppens, watches as a German dirigible in the sky. This dirigible looks so lights, and free in the sky to him. He wants to be a pilot, and be free in the sky from the cockpit of his own biplane. This represents his, and our dreams.

Personal Reaction

I enjoy this book immensely. This book has given me a perspective into war I never would have thought about without it. It raises questions, and helps me feel for the people in that war. I am reading about twenty people that lived, which is pretty amazing. I love reading about these people so much that, think it's safe to say that if I were to imagine them as other kids at school, I know who'd be my friends, who wouldn't etc. It sounds kind of strange, but that is how much I love this book.

Personal Recomandation

Many people may not like, or enjoy this book, in fact many may find it boring. Despite this I would recommend it to anyone, and everyone. If someone were to read it, they would be hugely entertained, learn of human nature, life, war, and history. I would highly recommend it to anyone in High School, and beyond.

Student Created Piccolage