Home > Uncategorized > Georges Duhamel: Who has taught children of man that war brings happiness?

Georges Duhamel: Who has taught children of man that war brings happiness?

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

Georges Duhamel: Selections on war

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Georges Duhamel
From The Heart’s Domain (La Possession du monde) (1919)
Translated by Eleanor Stimson Brooks

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The whole of humanity at this moment utters one despairing, heart-rending cry. It bellows like a wounded beast of burden, it simply does not understand its wound.

All convictions and all certitudes are at one another’s throats. How can we recognize them, with that lost look they have, that blood that soils and disfigures them? In the hurricane, opinions, uprooted, have lost their soil and their sap. They drift like autumn thistles, dry thistles that yet have power to tear the skin. Men no longer know anything but their insurmountable suffering, a suffering that has no limit and seems to be without reason. They groan and desire nothing but to be alleviated. Will a century of pious tenderness suffice to bathe, drain, close the vast wound?

Without delay, O streaming wound, your living flesh must be stanched and bathed. From now on, no matter how long you bleed, you must be anointed and protected, and if you are opened up again ten times, ten times must you be anointed anew and covered once more.

Yet, do not doubt it, humanity even in this terrible hour seeks for nothing but its own happiness. It rushes forward, by instinct, like a herd that smells the salt-lick and the spring. But it will suffocate rather than not enjoy everything together and at once.

Happiness?

God! who has given it this painful and ridiculous idea? What were they about, the priests, the scientists, and the people who write the books?

What has been taught the children of men that they could have been made to believe that war brings happiness to anyone? Let them declare themselves, those who have assured the poor in spirit that their happiness depends upon the possession of a province, an iron-mine, or a foaming arm of the sea between two distant continents!

It is thus that they have all set out for the conquest of happiness, since that is destiny, and there has been placed in their hands precisely what was certain to destroy happiness forever.

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