The Apocalyptic Adventures of
Private Winfred Scott Biegle;
or, Bullying to the End
This modernist novel, describing a dystopian military in the imaginary dictatorship of Atlantis, was written more than half a century ago when the author was a conscript in the U.S. Army and able to observe a corrupt and even dangerous culture at the height of the Cold War. As an editor of the post newspaper with an office in the headquarters building at the Granite City Engineer Depot, he was in a privileged position for observing the military mentality. He was able to hear stories at first hand of World War II and the Korean conflict, and to talk widely as a reporter with enlisted men and officers as well as with retired military men who were working for the army. And he had passed through basic infantry training, where he had encountered the most egregious bullying of his life up to that point—bullying designed to turn men into killing machines when ordered to do so. Private Biegle was invented as an anti-hero to satirize those who accepted authoritarianism as normative and patriotism as uncritical obedience. In other words, in the pages of the novel the author was exploring the subversion of civil society by probing the implications of the master-slave dichotomy that had been introduced by Hegel and relatively recently put to good use in feminist thought by Jessica Benjamin. But the novel also needs to be understood as an antic expression that foreshadows the media personality Stephen Colbert, who has popularized irony for so many in this century.
A critical introduction to the writing of this Orwellian novel and its relation of Biegle to the literature of the mid-twentieth century is provided by Oscar Haugen in the Afterward (pp. 153–58). But this is a work that, known previously only to a very few readers, has a wide relevance to the present time.
The author of the novel, Clifford Davidson, was author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of more than forty books.
Cover design by Jayne Cappelletti.
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Drawing of author by Joseph Zappia (1957).