Home > Uncategorized > Michel Corday: War – hell let loose, butchery, a return to barbarism

Michel Corday: War – hell let loose, butchery, a return to barbarism


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

French writers on war and peace

Michel Corday: Selections from The Paris Front


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


– My friend B- told me that the present total casualties of 1,300,000, if stretched out end to end along a road, would reach from Paris to Nice.

– A symbolical spectacle. An old man in dirty-grey uniform, with a cap drooping over his ear, tawny top-boots, sword clanking against his spurs, a score of mysterious ribbons on his chest, so radiant with pride as to light up the whole boulevard. Next to him, there was a poor devil on two crutches, with his drill coat, his corduroy trousers, one leg amputated right up to the thigh…A pitiable contrast!

– Why is it that all who possess power in France – much or little – are in favour of the indefinite prolongation of the war?

Surely they cannot seriously believe that an immediate peace would inevitably entail another war before too long. Since the present war is unprecedented, unparalleled, and has made deeper inroads than any former war upon the fundamental resources of all the belligerents, nobody can possibly know for certain when they will recover, or whether, now that the real horror of war has been finally revealed, they will ever feel disposed to go to war again.

– I cannot allow the expression, “the laws of war.” What we see before us is war, hell let loose, butchery, a return to barbarism. You cannot draw subtle distinctions between different methods of the art of killing. What is the difference between the suffocation inflicted by the vacuum of a heavy-shell explosion and the suffocation inflicted by poison gases?

– They have started their shootings again. Out of four soldiers in a mutinous regiment who were shot at Verdun, one had voluntarily enlisted, another was the father of three children, while another had won the Croix de Guerre. And those were not the real ringleaders.

– I hope that after the war there will be a recoil of horror, when the truth at present suppressed will break out. I have heard an officer describe Hill 304 at Verdun – the stench of blood, the splash of rivers of blood, the screams of soldiers calling for their mothers…When he speaks out, and thousands of others…what a graphic contrast that will be with the high-flown phrases which are all that the Censor allows.

– Sembat interviewed the “big chiefs” of the travel agencies. Plans for receiving the Americans who will come to visit our trenches. It is appalling, the exploitation of the graveyard of two million men. But it is the universal law. Death does not exist.

– One sees articles headed: “Beware of Peace.” Another article designed to goad on its readers to insatiable hatred was headed: “Firebrands of Peace.” I am told it was written by a woman.

– A revenue official tells me that all the army contractors are trying to escape taxes on their profits. What a lesson this will be for those who survive the war – this revelation of waste and chicanery. Many of these scandals were pointed out in the Chamber, but were received in a kind of apathy. They were incapable of indignation, action, or energy. Everything evaporates in words.

– I have been told that, in the Battle of the Somme, raw recruits of the 1917 class shouted, “Mother,” when they tried to make them go over the top, and their officers were compelled to shoot some of them.

– A drawing in the Petit Parisien displays a French soldier kicking a German soldier who is carrying a board labelled “Peace.”

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