This article begins with the discovery in a Wellcome Library war psychiatry archive of a carbon copy of one of John Steinbeck’s 1943 dispatches to the New York Tribune from the Italian front. The article examines Steinbeck’s dispatch in relation to documents in the military psychiatry archive, to Steinbeck’s other war dispatches published in 1958 as the collection Once There Was a War, and to the reception of his propagandistic novel The Moon Is Down in order to show that Steinbeck’s archived piece (infused as it is with the conflicted discourses of war psychiatry) constructs soldiers’ responses to war violence as beset by paradox—as normal as childbirth yet “beyond bearing.” I use this strange juxtaposition of documents (postmodern dispatch and official reports and memoranda) to reflect on the archive as an accidental anthology that allows us the opportunity to read disparate texts in relation to one another and to see sociocultural phenomena in a new light, in this case both the trajectory of Steinbeck’s writing career and contemporary representations of war trauma.

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