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Michel Corday: War sentiment is general dementia, barbarous and neolithic

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

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Michel Corday: Selections from The Paris Front

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Michel Corday
From The Paris Front (1934)
Translator not identified

January 1916

– The 1st. The historian Lavisse, in the Petit Parisien, is giving gentle hints to the minority which wants peace. For he himself wants war, still more deaths, plenty of deaths! For he is contemplating the future, he is! He loves his country, he does! In fact, the reasons he gives are an indication of the general dementia. Here they are:

1. We cannot allow all those Frenchmen to have died in vain. )So let us make just as many more die!)

2. Our sorrows demand the solace of vengeance. (A sentiment which, in any period of sanity, would be considered barbarous and neolithic.)

3. The war”which was thrust upon us” must provide revenge for 1870. (Ho! Ho! So he is by no means sorry to be compelled to take his revenge!)

4. No Frenchman can live without honour or glory. It is his duty to free the world from tyranny, etc. (Ah! if only we tore off those veils of verbiage, what a foul body would be seen beneath!)

– The very old and the very young are the greatest enemies of peace. For the former have no more desire for life, while the latter have no yet required it. The old remember the defeat of 1870. The young have a sporting interest in fighting, and are a prey to the vain-glory tainting the very air they breathe.

– Little children are being dressed up as soldiers, just as they used to be in carnivals. Little girls wear policemen’s caps and cloaks of “horizon blue.” And yet the Socialists imagine that this is the war to end war! And yet generations are being brought up to love uniforms – one of the causes of the present war.

– The income tax is to come into force from the 1st March, 1916. It is comic. For so many people preferred to have this war rather than this tax! Now they have got them both.

– It is reported that French and German soldiers, especially on the Northern front, flooded out of their trenches, camped on the parapets by tacit agreement, without firing on each other. They even exchanged food. Stories like this make our patriots feel really ill, even though the armistice was mutual. They are anxious that we shall not cease in our ferocity. They are afraid that the war might stop.

– The association of motor manufacturers in Lyons has declared a boycott against the pacifist Ford. This detestation of peace has the secondary advantage of serving their interests, since Ford is flooding all the markets of the world with his cars.

– Over the last eighteen months the war has cost Europe 3,000 human lives every day and an average of 350,000,000,000 francs. Nobody worries any longer about these astounding figures.

– Despite the savage expectations of our patriotic madmen, soldiers still exchange friendly conversation between the trenches. Thus, one night, a German outpost asked a French sentry: “Tell me, now, how does one go about it to establish a republic?”

– This is only one nation in which forty-three members of Parliament, out of three hundred and sixty, have refused to vote war credits, and in which poor women have expressed their indignation by wrecking luxurious restaurants – and that is Germany.

– Anyone who comes back from the front has to face the bland enquiry of comfortable middle-class women: “Are the men still keen?” That means, of course: “Are the troops still perfectly resigned to their duty of killing and being killed?”

     

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