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The Curtain Rises ePub

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I found my copy at my local library annual book-sale. A great find in my opinion. "The Curtain Rises" is a fleshed out series of dispatches written by Quentin Reynolds in 1943. Reynolds was an overseas correspondent for Collier's magazine during World War II. The book was published in 1944 and I have found a few of the chapters in other anthologies over the years. In "The Curtain Rises" Reynolds writes about life in the Soviet Union, Iran, North Africa, Sicily and he witnesses the Battle of Salerno (Italy) first hand.

The book is an interesting blend of "rah-rah" flag waving patriotism and properganda and surprising blunt no-nonsense reporting. There are several occasions in which Reynolds flat out states that he and his fellow reporters refused to report everything they saw because it wasn't necessary and might even hurt the allies war effort and the moral of the soldiers and civilians.Reynolds is also critical of those politicians and political commentators (in 2013 we call them "talking heads") who spend most of their time criticizing the president and how the war effort is being conducted.Wow how times have changed - or haven't changed. Keep in mind that this was written, and printed, when the United States was still at war! In 2013 it's a cherished myth that in World War II the United States pulled together and rolled up it's collective sleeves, but from 1944 comes documentation that this wasn't the case at all.

I found Reynold's reporting on the Soviet Union to be fascinating. He makes no bones about the fact the the Soviets were a totalitarian state in which such freedoms as speech and due process under the law did not exist.Not only was Reynolds okay with the fact that the United States was allied with a dictatorship he gives the impression (in my opinion) that it's no big deal. I got the impression that Reynolds believed the Russian people didn't know how to live in a Democratic system and just because the United States is a democracy doesn't mean that all the nations of the world have to be democratic. A one point Reynolds writes that the Soviets have no interest in the United States and won't be a concern for the U.S.A. for at least ten years after the war ends. Reynolds also glosses over the fact the the Soviet system was oppressive and is skeptical of the German claim that the Soviets massacred thousands of Polish military officers and others in the Katyn Forest massacre. As we now know it happened, but how many of us would have believed such claims by the Nazi's in 1943?

While Reynolds got that one wrong the main thing is that Reynolds makes it clear that the war is being fought so that the nations of the world can determine their own destinies and governments. Not have one system forced down their throats. Considering what occurred within just a couple years of the end of World War II I found this viewpoint to be fascinating. I found myself wondering if the Cold War was as inevitable as historians have made it out to appear.

The reporting on the Allied war effort in Iran, North Africa and Italy is more straightforward though there is still some of that flag waving going on, but what can one expect from a book published in 1944? Don't bring 2013 sensibilities to this book. You'll do yourself a disservice.

Like all contemporary accounts of WWII there are details that Reynolds either didn't know or was unable to write about. But "The Curtain Rises" is an invaluable addition to one's World War II library for it gives one insight into how the people were living and what they were thinking during the war. Insight that isn't muted and changed by the years and nostalgia.
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