Sven Hassel?

Sparks the Knave

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hello all :D I was just wondering if anyone has read any of [FONT=verdana,arial,helvetica][SIZE=-1]Sven Hassel's novels? and if so, are they worth the look?

my father spoke today that he use to read his books ([/SIZE][/FONT]Sven Hassel being the pen name of Sven Pedersen a Dane who enlisted in the German army in WW2), which were loosely based on his experiances.

I was thinking of picking up the first book (prolly have to order it no doubt), Legion of the Damned?, but thought I might ask about here first.

cheers for any help :D!
 

Sparks the Knave

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checking reviews on other sites, it's very much to the extremes.

some praise his books as fantasticly grity and sharp edged, and others that they are utter printed-vomit.

some say that his first book Legion of the Damned is the best of his books and a fantastic stand out, while others say it is the poorest and should be over-looked for stronger books in the collection :S

there seems to very little middle/common ground from what i have seen. any thoughts muchly welcomed as always :D
 

Brian G Turner

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I've read quite a lot of the Sven Hassel books - my dad used to collect them so I figured why not read them.

In terms of literary merit - like you said, it's loosely based on experiences of WWII. "Legion of the Damned" is probably the best book to read first, as it introduces the characters and gives them proper context (not least that it's a penal company they're fighting in).

However, after then the books tend to generically blend into a mix of frozen Siberian winters and lusty tales of Italy. I don't recall any general backstory running through them all.

One thing that did irritate me is that different translators used different names for the characters. For example, a character in one book is "The Old 'Un", in another "Old Man", and Tiny else ended up being translated as "Little John" in one set of translations - quite off-putting the lack of consistency.

Also - I've noticed the books re-released with new covers, and they look bloody awful - like some young art student has done them, rather than a professional artist - the book covers of the 80's I remember as really well painted and draw you in quickly.

Anyway - Sven Hassel books aren't a great read but they're not an awful read, either. And the fact that it's about a group of German soldiers fighting a war they don't care for makes for an interesting take on WWII, and I remember enjoying them enough at the time to read most of them. I seem to recall "Wheels of Terror" and "Monte Casino" as other decent reads in the series.

Hope that helps. :)
 

Sparks the Knave

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Cheers I, Brian :D well I think I'll give Legion of the damned a look then if I can get a copy ordered through my local store. depending how that goes will hit up Wheels of Terror afterwards as that seems to have had good reviews through-out
 

von_Luck

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I've read some of these and they are an easy read.

Other good ones in this vein are:
  • A Grandfather's Tale by Timothy Erenberger - Tale about a German sniper
  • Stalingrad by Theoder Pliever
  • Cross of Iron by Willi Heinrich - good book, good movie
  • The Black March by Peter Neumann
  • War of the Rats, End of the War, The Last Citadel by David L. Robbins - these were all good. He has a few more that I've yet to read.
  • 633 Squadron by Frederick E. Smith - these are are series of books about an RAF group - good series, the movie was based on the first book
  • Leo Kessler is the author of way to many to list. This is actually Charles Whiting, he has over 100 WW2 novels under this pen name.
I'll have to look through my bookcases for more good ones.
 

BGPA

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I'm 46 and read many of Sven Hassels books when I was 11 or 12. They belonged to my elder brother and I had a voracious appetite for reading. So Porta, The Legionaire, The Old Man, Tiny and Heide became real characters to me and I eagerly awaited the next book my brother dis-carded. The horror was often made more easy to stomach because of the matter of fact often jokey approach Sven and the boys took to it. The humour was hilarious at times and I feel the books (be they fact or fiction) were excellent and entertaining. Start at the beginning and read all you can. Reading is a dying art and many brains are suffering for it!!!
 

paranoid marvin

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Same here,my dad used to read them , so one day I picked one up - and couldn't put it down until I'd finished! before I knew it ,I'd read pretty much all of them . Some seem to be grittily realistic , others are more like Commando comic books . But it is refreshing to get the the German perspective on what was happening - if nothing else , emphasisng the fact that not all German soldiers were Nazis
 

The Ace

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Yeah, I went through a phase of his stuff during my nihilistic mid-teens, Tiny, Porta, the Little Legionnaire ( merde aux yeux ) and the Old Man certainly made an impression. I wouldn't say it's good writing, but it's certainly vivid, if a bit gory.
 

Stig

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I have read most of his books. The first one reminded me a little of Remarque. The rest are written for my fun and his money. But OK, they are quite entertaining
 

remyy7

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I just finished 'Wheels of Terror' and having read almost all of Donald Burgett's books, and Kominsky's contemplation's with the Screaming Eagles in Normandy and basgtogne, "If You Survive"(Incredible by the way).
Whether 'Wheels of Terror' is a factual biography like the former mentioned is probably not entirely true. However, this book is tremendous and great read with an off the cuff style. As I said, whether it is true in the biography sense, maybe not. I unconditionally believe that each one of the incidents and chapters described and expressed in "Wheels of Terror" had at one time or another, probably multiple times, occured on Germany's Eastern front. And that fact, reading and understanding the atrocities of war and how desperate of an act it should be considered, should be, to me, what counts. and not whether Tiny, or the Little Legionare, or the incredible joseph Porta existed. I am sure they did with different names, and a different group of lost komrads.
Note: You have to really be in to WW2 books to like this. It should not be your first read if you are just starting to learn and read about the subject.
Hope this helps anyone who is considering it. Now I am starting on 'Monte Cassino', defended by the German Fahnenjunker. luk
 

svalbard

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Sven Hassel is good but he does get a bit repetitive at times. Two books I would highly recommend in this genre would be The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer and the Unknown Soldier by Vaino Linna.

The first tells the sory of the author who as a sixteen year old in 1941 joined the German army and ended up in the elite Gross Deucthsland(sp) division. It is a harrowing story about the war on the Russian Front.

The second is about a machine gun battalion of the Finnish army in WW11.
 

Patrician

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I have read a few of his books some years ago and all I can say is not bad. They are not some incredible literature masterpices but they are not total c*ap. There are lots of comic situations, touchy moments, exaggerations and combat. I find Monte Cassino, Liquidate Paris and SS General somewhat better. Of those I have read.
Not bad to read in public transport going to work. :)
 

hinamanu

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to the ace,,
It is good writing,, because it's so vivid. The descriptive language of city districts and places are magical. There's so much debate about hassel himself but no one, and that is absolutely, criticises his picturesque descriptions of city districts.
And if the black panther story didn't affect you, humour is a stranger to you.

that's what made him so good. He could describe war and humour so well.
 

hinamanu

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Remyy,,

Monte Casino is where he describes the 'feared New Zealanders.'

He was talking bout the Maori 28 battalion and if he faced them and survived he was a bloody genius.

Rommel himself said if he could have the Maoris he could take the world.
 

boabaza

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Lets start again shall we?
I'm 44 and discovered Svens books when I was14.
I know some of the facts are dubious and some of the history
is mixed up, but a good story is a good story.
I've read them all at least twice and will read them all again, cos I've
just found them all in a box in our loft.
You dont need to ask if someones work is good or not,
go to a library and try it for yourself.
Its all about personal taste.
 

paulh

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I read all the Sven Hassel books many years ago and found them to be very gritty and realistic (though I`ve never been in a war myself). I have just finished reading `Stalingrad` by Antony Beevor. Excellent book. I want to start reading Sven`s books again. I have a question for Boabaza (if he`s got all his Sven books from the attic), `Can you tell me the correct order in which to read these books`.

paulh.
 

svalbard

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Anthony Beevor's book on Stalingrad is brilliant. It really gets across the savagery of that battle.
 
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