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Michel Corday: War, the most brutal heritage of the past

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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

1916

– I can see quite clearly the profound gulf which cuts me off from the rest. In my view, the most appalling thing is the mere fact of war. But the rest passively accept war as they accept hailstorms, cholera, the inevitable scourges of nature. Once that is admitted, they can discuss the events of the war with perfect equanimity, even reacting with enthusiasm to all the echoes of battle.

– I must emphasise, in season and out of season, the miasma of mendacity exuded by the Press – those dogmatic utterances, those ridiculous exaggerations, those guilty suppressions. I ought to quote examples. But they will be exposed in good time; we shall being them face to face, when it is all over, with the naked truth.

– A regiment marching toward Verdun gave vent to moans as they passed through a village. The villagers were astonished. So the soldiers explained: “What d’you expect? Aren’t they leading us to the slaughter-house?”

– You never see a smile on the face of a soldier with a steel helmet, who has come straight from the front line trenches. He has death before his eyes.

– Should not the fact that all our reactionaries approve of the war open out eyes? Does it not prove that war is a heritage of the past – the most brutal heritage?

– Marcelle Capry, who has just published A Woman’s Voice Amid the Conflict, has shown me a letter in which P-, the Deputy, congratulates her on her humane spirit. P- declares that he would lay down his life to secure peace. But in the secret session neither he nor anyone else raised their voices in a poignant outcry of pity for the 1,500 killed each day. Not a voice was raised on behalf of their bereaved mothers, or to pronounce a solemn anathema on the loathsome folly of “war in itself.”

– Why has no taboo of shame been attached to war, just as to other actions which injure the race, such as onanism and suicide?

– What is war? A kind of Unnatural Selection, which wipes out the young and the strong.

– During war, folly is piled on folly. Newspapers are declaring: “Two years of war are nothing for an upheaval like this. Does not history tell us of a Seven Years’ War, a Thirty Years’ War, a Hundred Years’ War? Once again, I must repeat that those wars had nothing but the name in common with the present massacres between whole nations under arms.

– Out of 192 former students at the Teachers’ Training College who were commissioned as second-lieutenants in the infantry, 110 have been killed.

– Here is a photograph of German prisoners and their guards. How alike they are, guarded and guardians! What warm friends they seem! Nothing illustrates more painfully the base folly of war!

– The Vie Féminine has printed a story with the title “The Proudest Woman.” The heroine is a mother. By chance, her soldier son was fighting in the same village where she was living. He was killed by a bullet before the very eyes of his mother. And she was “The Proudest Woman” because she alone was the actual eye-witness of the glorious death of her son…

– The jewellers all confess that business has never been so good before. Many of the New Rich are salting down their war profits into jewellery, to escape taxes. Others are taking this step as a safeguard against national bankruptcy, so that whatever happens they will have their wealth in a portable and realisable form.

– Lloyd George has been interviewed by American reporters. His summary of the situation can be condensed as follows: “Such a horror cannot be allowed in the world again. The only way to prevent its recurrence…is to prolong it indefinitely.” Honestly, what hypocrisy is this anxiety for future generations!

– The war against Peace: there are great rejoicings because Scandinavia and Switzerland have declared that they will not interfere between the belligerents. Excellent! On with the massacre! On with the dance of death!

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