Le Feu (Under Fire) signed by Henri Barbusse 1st / 1st 1916
Paris: Ernest Flammarion, Tirage Spécial pour “Les XX” (1916)With both original wrappers and the special “XX” issue marbled wrappers boxed in the original slipcase. First edition, number 5 of XX special copies printed on papier vélin de cuve des Usine d’Arches in large paper format and signed by Barbusse for the bibliophiles of Les XX.
Les XX was founded in 1897 to encourage the production of fine editions of works specially chosen to offer “an appeal of curiosity, novelty, originality, and intellectual value”. Entirely unconcerned with commercial considerations, they published only a single copy for each member.
The author’s Le Feu or Under Fire, was one of the earliest published novels of the war, based on Barbusse’s experiences at the front and purportedly begun in the trenches. Wounded and invalided out of active service, Barbusse finished its composition while working at the War Office.
A remarkable piece of wartime writing in its own right, literary scholars have identified the work as having exerted a powerful influence on a number of poets and writers (including Siegfried Sassoon and Edmund Blunden) during the conflict and, later, on that group of post-war authors, whose of ‘trench memoirs’ and war-based fictional works, published in the late 1920s, were largely fuelled by a spirit of anger about the appalling nature of the conflict, and disillusion with its consequences.