During the First World War, just behind the eastern front, there was a forest, where Austrians and Hungarians used to hang deserters. To this place came Apostol Bologa, a young Romanian officer eager to serve his country. Born in a Romanian region of Transylvania which was then under Hungarian rule, he had naturally enough joined the Austro-Hungarian army. But soon Romania itself entered the war, and Bologa found himself fighting his own people.
The Forest of the Hanged asks a fundamental question about war: namely, why does a man fight? Apostol condemns an officer to death for desertion and attempting to give information to the enemy. He watches the execution of the officer with satisfaction until he witnesses a fellow soldier's grief and pity for the dead man. At this point his world shifts. His growing self-doubt and uncertainty lead him to question beliefs he once held without question. Unprepared for his own reaction when he is once again called to sit on a court martial, he finds that he too must go to the forest.
This very rare, richly descriptive novel lays bare the inner conflict engendered by a total war, yet seldom expressed.