The War Prayer (Harper Colophon Books) by Mark Twain, John Groth

Paperback, 96 pages
Published February 25th 1984 by Harper Perennial (first published 1968)
ISBN:  0060911131 (ISBN13: 9780060911133)
original title:  The War Prayer

Written by Mark Twain during the Philippine-American War in the first decade of the twentieth century, The War Prayer tells of a patriotic church service held to send the town’s young men off to war. During the service, a stranger enters and addresses the gathering. He tells the patriotic crowd that their prayers for victory are double-edged-by praying for victory they are also praying for the destruction of the enemy… for the destruction of human life.

Originally rejected for publication in 1905 as “not quite suited to a woman’s magazine,” this antiwar parable remained unpublished until 1923, when Twain’s literary executor collected it in the volume Europe and Elsewhere. Handsomely illustrated by the artist and war correspondent Philip Groth, The War Prayer remains a relevant classic by an American icon.

My thoughts:
Understanding that Mark Twain was pretty seriously anti-war, I found this a really poignant piece that pointed out the (sometimes overlooked) consequences of war, and of the political positions we adopt, and ask God to make victorious. War is, unfortunately, an unavoidable part of a sinful world, and I think that regardless of Twain’s personal religious beliefs, he understood that, and he understood (and pointed out) that a good outcome for one can very often be a severe casualty for another.

Above & beyond the brilliantly executed writing is the artwork, which skillfully illustrates Twain’s words without being distracting or out of keeping with the timbre of the prayer. In choosing editions to read, the illustrated edition is definitely worth seeking out.

5 Stars


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