‘The Prussian Officer’ by D. H. Lawrence

I couldn’t leave D.H. Lawrence out of a collection about sex and death. This is the story of an aristocratic army captain’s growing obsession with and bullying of his conscript manservant. It was first published in 1914, more than fifty years before the legalisation of homosexuality. In some ways its themes of shame and violent repression feel out of step with our times and yet as a story it remains powerful. The atmosphere of claustrophobia is intense. Although they are surrounded by other people, no one can help either of them. I particularly love the contrast between the beautiful landscape – fields of green rye and golden corn with blue mountains in the distance – and the lonely tragedy that unfolds.

First published in The Prussian Officer and Other Stories, Duckworth 1914, restored text based on Lawrence’s manuscripts, typescripts and corrected proofs republished by Penguin Modern Classics in 1995. Read it here

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