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The Enormous Room

by E. E. Cummings

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Book Description
A rambunctious modern novel by the twentieth century's most inventive poet.

Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1894, Edward Estlin Cummings rebelled against the prevailing values of his Harvard and Unitarianism-- steeped milieu. His relentless search for personal freedom led him to Greenwich Village in early 1917, where he established himself as a Modernist, composing his sui generis poems and abstract paintings. Later that year, he impulsively joined the war, serving in a Red Cross ambulance unit on the Western Front. His free-spirited, combative ways, however, soon got him tagged as a possible enemy of La Patrie, and he was summarily tossed into a French concentration camp at La Ferte-Mace in Normandy.

Unexpectedly, under the vilest conditions, Cummings found fulfillment of his ever-elusive quest for freedom. The Enormous Room (1922), the fictional account of his four-month confinement, reads like a Pilgrim's Progress of the spirit, a journey into dispossession, to a place among the most debased and deprived of human creatures. Yet Cummings's hopeful tone reflects the essential paradox of his experience: to lose everything--all comforts, all possessions, all rights and privileges--is to become free, and so to be saved. Drawing on the diverse voices of his colorful prisonmates--Emile the Bum, the Fighting Sheeney, One-Eyed Dah-veed--Cummings weaves a "crazy-quilt" of language, which makes The Enormous Room one of the most evocative instances of the Modernist spirit and technique, as well as "one of the very best of the war-books" (T. E. Lawrence).

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At any rate I passed a few remarks calculated to wither the by this time a little nervous Übermensch; got up, put on some enormous sabots (which I had purchased from a horrid little boy whom the French Government had arrested with his parent, for some cause unknown--which horrid little boy told me that he had 'found' the sabots 'in a train' on the way to La Ferté) shook myself into my fur coat, and banged as noisemakingly as I knew how over to One-Eyed Dahveed's paillasse, where Mexique joined us. 'It is useless to sleep,' said One-Eyed Dah-veed in French and Spanish. 'True,' I agreed, 'therefore let's make all the noise we can.'



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