Like Diogenes looking for an honest man, Mark Kleiman has been looking for a modern non-genre pro-war novel of high literary merit. He has had a surprisingly difficult time.
Because I am nuts, I suggested Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel. Most people don't think of World War One as a positive transformative experience. Jünger had no such doubts:
"Hardened as scarcely another generation ever was in fire and flame, we could go into life as though from the anvil; into friendship, love, politics, professions, into all that destiny had in store. It is not every generation that is so favored."Jünger was born in 1895, and lived nearly to his one hundred and third birthday. He had, um, an interesting life. Recently the New York City Math Teacher (Now Past the Cusp of Matrimony) and I went to Zum Stammtisch Restaurant, somewhere off the Long Island Expressway. Even though my German ancestors left around 1848, and NYCMT's some ninety years later, the food still calls to us at a primeval, almost genetic level. And so over sauerbraten and smoked trout and rye bread and dark beer (all delicious) we fell to talking about the vagaries of German history; and for some reason, I brought up Jünger. "Ah, Jünger," said NYCMT. "The lich." 'Lich' is rather an uncommon word in English. I'd only ever heard the word spoken before in two contexts: among people familiar with the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, as a kind of dead man walking; and to refer to then living nonagenarian senator Strom Thurmond. It derives from an Old English word meaning 'corpse'. Cognates are wonderful things. So Jünger has been a little difficult to rehabilitate. In any case, he's not very well known in English (as Kleiman notes), although he's been championed by figures as diverse as the British aesthete and travel writer Bruce Chatwin and the Texan cyber-guru Bruce Sterling. For the Jünger neophyte, here's a short piece taken from the 1937 edition of his Adventurous Heart, called "Violet Endives".
I stepped into a luxurious gourmet shop because I had noticed in the display window a quite uniquely violet sort of endive. I wasn't surprised when the salesman explained to me that the only kind of meat with which this dish could be served is human flesh -- I had already rather dimly suspected that. We had a long talk about the manner of preparation, then we went down into the cold-storage chamber where I saw people hanging on the wall like rabbits in front of a meat merchant's shop. The salesman made it a special point that here and without exception I got my prey and did not even consider the pieces crammed into rows at the breeding establishments: "leaner, but -- I'm not saying it to boast -- far more aromatic." Hands, feet, and heads were set out in particular dishes and planted with little price labels. As we were going back up the stairs, I remarked: "I didn't realize the civilization in this city has already advanced so far," whereupon the salesman seemed to hesitate for a moment, so as then to give me a receipt with a very obliging smile.(From Thomas Nevin's Ernst Jünger and Germany: Into the Abyss, 1914-1945.)