A reference point for visceral horror

When watching gruesome cases in a quarantine hospital, Ross draws on his memories of World War I for comparison.

While World War I is by no means a key topic of Ross’s travel book Haha Whenua - das Land, das ich gesucht (1933), it turns up as a point of reference in unexpected places such as this. When visiting a quarantine hospital in the South Sea, Ross is shown several syphilitics and a man mutilated by a knife. Right away he compares them to the carnage he saw in battle, asserting that he is not easily shocked anymore: “After all, I’m used to quite a bit from the war. [...] I have witnessed a grenade tear both legs from a comrade-in-arms.” [p. 111–2]

Writing 15 years after the end of the Great War, and shortly after a wave of popular German books and films about the war’s brutality, Ross utilizes a reference point for visceral horror that seems still very much on the mind of his German-language readership. Thus, when he concludes that these war experiences “were nothing compared to what I got to see now”, this is a rather sensationalistic claim on the reader’s imagination.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. [Excerpt from] Die Seucheninsel. In: Haha Whenua - das Land, das ich gesucht. Mit Kind und Kegel durch die Südsee. 4. Aufl. Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus; 1933: 111–2.

Topic: The Great War
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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