The Beauty and the Sorrow

ORIGINAL TITLE: Stridens skönhet och sorg

AUTHOR: Peter Englund


GENRE: Non-fiction

An intimate narrative history of World War I told through the stories of twenty men and women from around the globe – a powerful, illuminating, heart-rendering picture of what the war was really like.

In this masterful book, renowned historian Peter Englund describes this epoch-defining event by weaving together accounts of the mostly average men and women who experienced it. Drawing on the diaries, journals, and letters of twenty individuals from Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Venezuela, and the United States, Englund uses their varied perspectives to describe not a course of events but a ”world of feeling.”

Composed in short chapters that move between the home front and the front lines, The Beauty and the Sorrow brings to life people whose voices have until now remained unheard and lets them speak for all who were shaped in some way by the Great War.

In this fascinating and highly original historical piece of literary non-fiction, PhD. Peter Englund chooses a mosaic technique with an eye-witness perspective to illuminate an almost forgotten war while at the same time making evident that the conflict is still alive – only branched off to other wars.

The Beauty and the Sorrow is an unforgettable account that makes you feel what it was like during the war and at the same time makes you wish only to awake from the awful nightmare. This is how a war should be depicted.

2018 marks the 100 year anniversary since World War I was over.



"Peter Englund is one of the best writers of our time on the tactics, the killing and the psychology of war. In The Beauty and the Sorrow he superbly and humanely brings to life all the tragedy, chaos, death and gunsmoke of battle"

Simon Sebag Montefiori

"It deserves its success because it is perceptive, humane and elegantly written. It never fails to keep the reader’s interest."

Financial Times

"Englund writes in a telegraphic present tense alive with detail ... this reader could detect no false notes in the narratives, which make this a literary as well as historical achievement"


"Whether considered as history or as literature – it is, of course, both – The Beauty and the Sorrow is radically original in form and epic in scope."

Geoff Dyer

"In four decades of studying war, I’ve never read such a remarkable book ... Twenty lives, told in parallel, convey the war’s complexity better than any of the grand histories so far written ... What makes these characters so extraordinary is their eloquence. Englund knits their achingly evocative accounts into a riveting diary of war. He fills in the gaps with background research but grafts this onto his characters’ testimony so seamlessly that it seems as if the narrative is theirs, not his."

Washington Post

"An unforgettable and unprecedented view of the war ... a beautiful tribute."

San Francisco Chronicle

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Brazilian rights sold to Companhia das Letras

Bulgarian rights sold to Universitetsko izdatatelstvo

Czech rights sold to Albatros Media

Danish rights sold to Tiderne skifter

Dutch rights sold to Unieboek

Estonian rights sold to Varrak

Finnish rights sold to WSOY

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German rights sold to Rowohlt

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