Preferring Sven or Sajer?

Colored photograph of front cover of Sven Hassel's book 'Assignment Gestapo" which has author's name in yellow capitals at top and title in orange capitals beneath., then a picture of a German tank. Book is on a colorful abstract background. Sven or Sajer.

This is a brief exploration of my preferences for Sven or Sajer. I am referring, of course, to authors, Sven Hassel and Guy Sajer, the pseudonym of Guy Mouminoux. I did appreciate the recollections of French volunteer, Guy Sajer, in his book, The Forgotten Soldier, which I have read a number of times.

Sajer successfully imparted a sense of real camaraderie juxtaposed with a world of fear and often hopelessness. In fact, I have found that reading his account was especially helpful during a time of intense personal trial, in that Sajer was, for me, a serendipitous type of ‘kindred spirit’. The lesson of being a victim of deception, no doubt, is applicable to us all, to some degree.

In comparison, I found the works of Sven Hassel pretty much unreadable. If the brutality was as great as he described it, among the ranks of the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS, I doubt they could have functioned at all.

Authenticity of Sven or Sajer

The Wehrmacht units were raised from defined geographical locations in order to imbue a sense of social cohesion. The SS, on the other hand, promoted their alleged superiority as elite units, being part of an exclusive club. Some of their more exotic foreign recruits remained undisciplined, but they were soon disbanded. 
 Black and white photograph of soldiers in armored vehicles in a field. A row of tall trees and a lot of smoke billowing in background. Sven or Sajer.

Sven Hassel did claim to have had war service experience, but he marketed his books as fiction. Guy Sajer’s book on the other hand, was autobiographical.

However, some people criticized Sajer for having certain mistakes in his recollections. Thus, some even doubted and disputed the veracity of his wartime experience with the Wehrmacht Großdeutschland division.

And yet, I believe the genuineness of his account, in which he described the almost undefinable human abasement experienced during the cataclysmic events on the Eastern Front. I am not alone in this view, as there was some confirmation of his accounts within the veteran community as well.

Sajer was an excellent storyteller. If the work was not driven by searing memories, one wonders why he did not seek literary acclaim with many more great fiction works. The fact that his ability was not perpetuated in subsequent books helps to convince me that The Forgotten Soldier is what it purports to be.

It has sold well, as have Sven Hassel’s books. And even though I don’t esteem the latter’s writing, it has served as a foil to aid in the development of my own writing style. 

Colored photograph of Sven Hassel's book, 'Assignment Gestapo&#039 open to show writing on frontispiece;.  Pages of book are yellowed on edges. Sven or Sajer.
An example of Sven’s writing style.

Unfortunately I can’t show you the cover of my copy of Sajer’s book because it is on semi-permanent loan to a friend.

Have You Been Influenced by Sven or Sajer or another author perhaps?

What are the most influential books in your personal library?

colored photograph of 7 books on a shelf with a blue, navy and maroon cat figure bookend. Sven or Sajer.

I’d be pleased if you’d reply in the comments’ section below and let me know the reason for your choice.

Image Credits

Ostfront, Gegenstoss of the Großdeutschland Division by Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J27512, .CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

Books on a bookshelf. Photo on