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Michel Corday: War is irreparable loss for the earth and the human race

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

Michel Corday: Selections from The Paris Front

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

1917

– My whole soul revolts when I hear our patriots refer in glowing terms to “an interesting day – we’ve only lost two thousand, but we’ve killed fifteen thousand!”

– A certain manufacturer was defiling a stream with the by-products of the poison gas made in his factory. The river-side landowners brought an action against him. The judge, animated by the “war mind,” failed to follow the traditional practice of brow-beating the defendant. Instead, he poured scorn on the plaintiff and congratulated the defendant on his work for national defence, for France.

– The long spell of bitter cold, the lack of coal, are compelling many people in the country to use wood for heating purposes. Thus the war is destroying our trees as well as our people. It is an irreparable loss for the earth and the human race.

– I am told that it will be difficult to establish responsibility for the origin of the war. But those who are eager for war without end, knowing as they do the real truth – those are really the guilty parties, those are the people we must expose and crush.

– People have only the feeblest conception of the enormous fortunes amassed owing to the war. Here and there a definite figure comes out into the open. A speech in the Chamber mentions profits of 2,000,000 francs a year received by a company with a capital of 125,000 francs. And what are we to say of those “metallurgical groups” which hold the monopoly for the manufacture of a particular model of gun…?

– It nauseates me whenever I hear people mouth the conventional phrases about the war. They swarm everywhere. They come gliding down from every eloquent platform. Phrases of Death. For it is they which send thousands of young men to the slaughter.

– When the peace offer of the 12th December, 1916, was rejected, a provincial paper wrote: “At least we are freed from the appalling nightmare of peace.”

– The 4th. A revue at the Fémina. Bare backs, bare breasts, bare legs, in infinite perspective. There was one song which declared that, when peace and plenty return, we should sigh for the days of danger. The auditorium bubbled over with enthusiasm at this idiocy. What heroes they feel when comfortably sitting in a fauteuil! There were mothers present whose sons are at the front. I recognised them. What did they think about it?

– I have been reading in a financial paper the annual report of an iron and steel company. They express their satisfaction at the opening of branches in Gennesvilliers, Milan and Moscow. And I recall the features of one of its two directors – heavy-jowled, coarse, and common, a positive gastropod, a mere embodiment of greed. It is only natural that such creatures should give their blessing to a nice long war! Yes, yes, those are the people, above all, for whom fifteen hundred young Frenchmen are being killed every day. The only other cause is the conceit of patriotism, which our leaders know how to stimulate.

– The secret session of Saturday, the 2nd June. It was revealed that Doumergue, at the time of his visit to Russia just before the Revolution, placed before the Tsar treaties which allotted to us the Alsace-Lorraine of 1814 (the left bank of the Rhine, dream of the Steel Trust), Syria (dream of the Catholics and the railway contractors), and Kurdistan (where some of our leading families are understood to possess interests).   

– Posterity, deriving its impressions of the war from newspapers and magazines of the period, will observe that no Frenchmen were killed at all. Never does a single figure, a single allusion to our losses, appear in the communiqués, nor is a French corpse ever shown in any picture of battle.

– What solicitude for our livestock! The number fell from seventeen to twelve million head. Quick! Let us have two meatless days! We must think of the future, mustn’t we? But what about the human stock, the young men in our armies, you wretched hypocrites! That has fallen from five to three million head! Do you worry about that?

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