Birdsong (novel)

novel by Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong (1993) is a novel by Sebastian Faulks focusing on the experiences of solider Stephen Wraysford while serving on the Western Front in World War I.


Citations are from the 1994 Vintage paperback, ISBN 0-09-938791-3, which is out of print.
  • Jack already immune to death, let their white faces drift from his memory.
    • p. 125.
  • It is as though you stop living. Your mind goes dead
    • p. 136.
  • He spoke no French and viewed all buildings, fields and churches as profoundly alien.
    • p. 141.
  • He blamed the NCOs, who blamed the officers; they swore at the staff officers who blamed the Generals.
    • p. 141.
  • He depended on the resilience of certain men to nerve himself to his unnatural life.
    • p. 142.
  • Perhaps in some way he did not understand, that was what the two officers had been doing: perhaps all that talk about life-drawing was just a way of pretending everything was normal.
    • p. 142.
  • This is not a war. It is an exploration of how far men can be degraded.
    • p. 150.
  • Although he had little idea of time, the burned images of the preceding days lived in his memory with static clarity.
    • p. 157.
  • What had taken place beneath that placid irregular roof seemed to belong to a world as peculiar and abnormal as the one in which he now lived.
    • p. 158.
  • Stephen was moved by the thought of his fellow countrymen fighting this foreign war.
    • p. 161.
  • I don’t value my life enough.
    • p. 164.
  • But their breathing and their hearts worked as though one body.
    • p. 168.
  • He was surprised by his own brutality, he assumed that it was caused by fear.
    • p. 172.
  • The empty expressions that filled so many letters home did not seem to describe the part that Stephen had played in his life.
    • p. 184.
  • Stephen was appalled by the idea of being separated from the men he had fought with. He despised the war, but could not leave until he had seen it through until the end.
    • p. 190.
  • He wanted to answer them with steel and explosives, with metal tearing into soft tissue and spinning on the bone. When the war was over there would be a place for contemplation, even generosity, but in the meantime he treasured his hatred as a means of saving his own life and those of his men.
    • p. 197.
  • The place from which the boy had came was not just a better place but a better world.
    • p. 198.
  • They were breaking free into the darkness of normality, with food and drink, the sound of women and the sight of men whose first thought would not be to kill them.
    • p. 201.
  • There was only violent death or life to chose between; finer distinctions such as love, preference or kindness were redundant.
    • p. 203.
  • And a recent one [food parcel] addressed to Wilkinson, some weeks dead had been a cause of particular celebration.
    • p. 212.
  • For a moment he was baffled. It seemed to have no agricultural purpose, there was no planting or ploughing to be done. Then he realised, they were digging a mass grave.
    • p. 215.
  • Any man shirking his duty would be shot on the spot.
    • p. 216.
  • Poor Fritz. He must be mad by now under those guns.
    • p. 218.
  • Non-believers finding faith in fear.
    • p. 219.
  • Once more in ragged suicidal line. They trudged towards the pattering death of mounted guns.
    • p. 232.
  • Still, the more sardonic they became, the more he cared for them. Still he could not quite believe them, he could not comprehend the lengths to which they allowed themselves to be driven.
    • p. 282.
  • If they could shout loud enough they might bring the world back to it's senses, they might laugh loud enough to raise the dead.
    • p. 344.
  • I feel guilty that I have survived when all the others are gone.
    • p. 390.
  • Shells will fall on the reserve lines and we will not stop talking.
    • p. 421.
  • No child or future generation will know what this was like.
    • p. 422.
  • His own [childhood] seemed so long ago that it was as is someone had lived it for him.
    • p. 425.
  • He could remember this compassion but he no longer felt it.
    • p. 440.
  • There would be some decorum in their dying beneath the country they had fought so long to protect.
    • p. 449.
  • There was a perverse appeal in the thought he could complete what no enemy had managed.
    • p. 450.
  • We’ve all gone now. The whole of our little group.
    • p. 455.
  • They mocked him for still being alive.
    • p. 455.
  • It made him laugh, mad-eyed and bearded, like a hermit in his cave.
    • p. 464.
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