War & Peace

December 25: On this day in 1914 the "Christmas Truce" of WWI, tentatively and spontaneously begun the previous evening at many places along the Front, held. This meant a day of anything from conversation to gift giving to soccer games to dining out:


We ate their Sauerkraut and they [ate] our chocolate, cakes, etc. We had killed a pig just behind our lines. There were quite a lot of creatures rambling about the lines, including an old sow with a litter and lots of cattle.... We cooked the pig in No Man's Land, sharing it with the Boche.


This recollection and many others are in Silent Night, by historian Stanley Weintraub. In the following passage, Weintraub quotes the memoirs of the famous British soldier-cartoonist of trench life, Bruce Bairnsfather:


Even after the extraordinary Christmas Eve, soldiers were astonished by what they saw at daylight on Christmas Day. "I awoke at dawn," Bruce Bairnsfather recalled, "and on emerging on all fours from my dugout, became aware that the trench was practically empty. I stood upright in the mud and looked over the parapet. No Man's Land was full of clusters ... of khaki and gray ... pleasantly chatting together.


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."