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Anatole France: Letter to an advocate of “peace with victory”


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Anatole France: Selections on war


Anatole France
Letter sent in 1917
Translated by J. Lewis May

Anatole France

Cher Ami,
I augur from your letter that you are in good health, for it is a sturdy epistle and reveals a resolute spirit. It appears that we can make what terms of peace we like, and that it is merely a question of time, otherwise the Allies would not have dictated the conditions in advance, and you would not have confirmed them in your letter. Well, then, seeing that it is open to us to make peace with or without victory, as we choose, I, following your example, indignantly repel the idea of a peace without victory.

Can there be any satisfaction in a peace without victory?

A peace without victory is bread without leaven, jugged hare without wine, mullet without capers, cèpes without garlic, love without quarrels, a camel without a hump, night without a moon, a chimney without smoke, a town without a brothel, pork without salt, a pearl without a hole, a rose without scent, a republic without dilapidations, a leg of mutton without a knuckle, a cat without fur, chitterlings without mustard – in a word, ’tis an insipid thing. Is it possible when there are so many sorts of peace to choose from, those Socialists, with such an abundant assortment before them, should go and put their hands on a peace without victory, a ramshackle peace, to employ your own original and powerful expression? Nay, what do I say, not even a limping, halting, hobbling peace, but a legless peace which will go and squat one buttock on each party, a disgusting, foetid, ignominious, excrementitious, fistulous, hemorrhoidal peace, or in one single word, a peace without victory.

But what can we expect from rascals who would put a tax on incomes and make the rich pay their share? And that is why, in the article which you annex in your letter by way of voucher, le Temps has so relentlessly pilloried these enemies of the human race. One is conscious of a stern delight in reading it. The indignation of righteous men is beautiful and terrible to behold.

Oh, dear R…, how praiseworthy is this good taste of yours which makes you choose a well-made, perfectly formed, plump, fully developed peace that brings us honour and profit, in short, a victorious peace. True, this nice peace may keep us waiting for it some time yet. But we are in no hurry. The war is only costing France ten thousand men a day.

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