Enormous Room

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Autobiographical narrative by E. E. Cummings, published in 1922.

As members of an American ambulance corps in France during World War I, the author and a friend are erroneously suspected of treasonable correspondence, and imprisoned by the French (Aug. 1917–Jan. 1918) in a concentration camp at La Ferté Macé, 100 miles west of Paris. Their fellow prisoners include the hyper-refined Count Bragard, the belligerent Fighting Sheeney, the tragic gypsy Wanderer and his family, the inarticulate but expressive Zulu, the servile, clownish Surplice, and the childish giant Jean le Nègre. All suffer under the needlessly cruel stresses of captivity, inhumane treatment by the officials and plantons (jailers), and the extremely filthy surroundings. Nevertheless they maintain the idiosyncratic beauties and humors of individual character, which the author exalts as the highest human values. The narrative is set in the form of a pilgrimage, and the intended resemblance to Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress appears in the presentation of the Directeur as the fiend Apollyon, and of certain remarkable prisoners as the Delectable Mountains.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

e. e. Cummings (1894—1962)