Home > Uncategorized > Michel Corday: The hideous futility of war in itself

Michel Corday: The hideous futility of war in itself


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 unknown


– People are still talking of premature peace after three years of an unparalleled war! Remember that the Germans, according to their official report, lost 28,600 in 1870. This time, they officially admit, up to now, a loss of 1,300,000. Fifty times as many. A war fifty times more brutal than that of 1870…And yet peace would be premature! Our descendants will laugh long and loud.

– In Science and Life for August 1, 1914, General Percin calculated that in a modern war it would cost a hundred thousand francs to kill one soldier. Three years of war confirm this opinion. The Allies have spent three hundred thousand million francs to kill three million enemies…

– The figures reported in the last secret communiqué on the offensive of the 16th and 17th April are: 25,000 dead, 55,000 missing (?), 70,000 wounded. Thus in a single morning we lost as many as the Germans lost in the whole campaign of 1870!

– I have been reading an analysis of pacifism, which states that the unpopularity of pacifism springs from the opinion that it arises merely from “a fear of being hurt.” Such writers forget that the “hurt” they are discussing is being suffered by others. It is, in other words, the wounds of others which these people do not fear.

– In the fierce greed of the business man to make his fortune through the war – that mean greed ranging all the way from the great manufacturer down to the petty profiteer, a greed which has been far too tenderly spared amid the general resignation – nothing is more repulsive than the exploitation of the fighting man.

– This struggle over Verdun is a perfect proof of the hideous futility of war in itself. For, after eighteen months of fighting, the two opposing armies are back exactly where they began. It is just as if they had never fought at all – except that now there are two hundred thousand corpses on that small plot of earth.

– Last winter, at Verdun, a regiment of Zouaves had to halt in shell-craters before an attack, on a night of bitter cold. The colonel telephoned to the general that his men would soon be frozen and be unable to march. The general, snugly ensconced in his quarters, insisted on their remaining where they were. There were 1,200 cases of frozen feet and 600 amputations.

Countless similar incidents will come to light after the war. If they do not make the world disgusted with militarism, we shall finally have to despair of human nature.

– If it were allowed to express one’s views, I should write an article entitled “The Vintage,” portraying the younger generation flung into the winepress, crushed, with the incessant gurgle of streaming blood – pale, frightened mothers looking on – while the levers of this winepress would be forced down by the unwearied arms of the ambitious politicians, the Chauvinists, the profiteers, while the idiot mob cheered them on…

– The war has really profoundly affected Anatole France. As he muses under the moon, or sits dreaming in the sunshine, his thoughts constantly revert to the horror of the trenches. Never have I seen a man without relatives at the front so sensitive to the horror of this long-drawn and calamitous folly.

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