In 1917, young Edward Estlin Cummings went to France as a volunteer with a Red Cross ambulance unit on the western front. But his free-spirited, insubordinate ways soon got him tagged as a possible enemy of La Patrie, and he was summarily tossed into a French concentration camp at La Ferte-Mace in Normandy. Under the vilest conditions, Cummings found fulfillment of his ever elusive quest for freedom. The Enormous Room, his account of his four-month confinement, is like a latter-day Pilgrim's Progress, a journey into dispossession, to a place among the most debased and deprived of human creatures. Cummings's hopeful tone reflects the essential paradox of his existence: to lose everything is to become free, and so to be saved.
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