Forest of the Hanged
The Casemate Classic War Fiction Series publishers new editions of forgotten classics that perfectly capture their era.
During the First World War, just behind the eastern front, there was a forest, where Austrians and Hungarians used to hang deserters. To this place came Apostol Bologa, a young Romanian officer eager to serve his country. Born in a Romanian region of Transylvania which was then under Hungarian rule, he had naturally enough joined the Austro-Hungarian army. But soon Romania itself entered the war, and Bologa found himself fighting his own people.
Forest of the Hanged asks a fundamental question about war: namely, why does a man fight? Apostol condemns an officer to death for desertion and attempting to give information to the enemy. He watches the execution of the officer with satisfaction until he witnesses a fellow soldier’s grief and pity for the dead man. At this point his world shifts. His growing self-doubt and uncertainty lead him to question beliefs he once held without question. Unprepared for his own reaction when he is once again called to sit on a court martial, he finds that he too must go to the forest.
This very rare, richly descriptive novel lays bare the inner conflict engendered by a total war, yet seldom expressed.