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E. E. Cummings

The Enormous Room

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The Enormous Room is a fictionalized autobiographical account of the three months that E. E. Cummings spent in a French prison under suspicion of espionage—a circumstance he could have easily avoided had he professed a hatred of Germans. Instead, when questioned, Cummings answered French authorities in a way that insured that he would accompany his friend “B.” (William Slater Brown), who was indeed guilty of writing letters critical of the French government. The psychologically tense narrative—shocking and provocative in its day—juxtaposes the barbarity and inhumanity of war against the comradery and collective spirit of the oppressed. As a piece of writing, it foreshadows the whimsy, humor, pessimism, and jubilance that would come to characterize Cummings’s poetry while, on its own, it stands as a major work of World War I literature. This Warbler Classics edition includes Paul Headrick’s essay “Brilliant Obscurity:” The Reception of The Enormous Room, as well as a detailed biographical timeline.