The remarkably powerful and moving true story of a soldier who lost his memory and identity during World War I, and of a people in mourning, who found in him the symbol of a lost generation.
Released from a German POW camp with no memory of his name or his past life and no documents or distinguishing marks to identify him, the soldier was given the name Anthelme Mangin, and sent to an asylum for the insane. With the end of the Great War, a newspaper advertisement placed in the hope of finding his lost family found instead a bereaved multitude ready to claim him as the father, son, husband or brother who had never come home.
With humane sympathy and the skill of a novelist, Jean Yves Le Naour meticulously recreates the twenty-year court battles waged over the Living Unknown Soldier. Poignant, psychologically penetrating, and profoundly revealing of the human cost of war, this remarkable book portrays not just the fate of one individual but a nation's inconsolable post-war grief and profoundly illuminates the nature of mourning.
Jean-Yves Le Naour is a history lecturer, specialising in World War I. His publications include Mis-res et Tourments de la chair pendant la Grande Guerre (Deprivation and Torments of the Flesh during the Great War), Aubier, 2002.