Date of this Version
Memoirs of the Foreign Legion By M. M. [Maurice Magnus] With an Essay by D. H. Lawrence. Zea Books, Lincoln, Nebraska 2022
Maurice Magnus was 39 years old when he enlisted in the French Foreign Legion to join the fight against Germany in World War I. Magnus was an American expatriot living in Rome—a theatrical agent, tutor, newspaper correspondent, writer, editor, and literary entrepreneur. He soon discovered his error—the Legion he found consisted largely of German exiles, prison-avoiding felons, and contemptuous French officers. Magnus spent about six weeks training in North Africa before a transfer to southern France provided the opportunity to desert and flee back to Italy. The Memoirs recounts his brief disenchanted tenure as a Legionnaire. After his military service his various enterprises had little success, and in 1920 a run of bad checks caused him to skip from Italy to Malta. Traced there eventually by the authorities, he faced extradition for charges of fraud and in desperation committed suicide. His acquaintances Norman Douglas and D. H. Lawrence prepared his Memoirs of the Foreign Legion for publication, hoping to clear the debts he left behind, and Lawrence wrote a long unflattering introduction. In the present volume the Memoirs is printed first, so readers have an unprejudiced experience of the text with Lawrence’s essay following for additional context. Magnus’s narrative contains offensive language. Some passages in his manuscript describing homosexual incidents that were excised by the original publisher are restored in this edition.