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Jean Giono: Led to the slaughterhouse


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

Jean Giono: Rats and worms were the only living things

Jean Giono: War, nourishment and dismemberment

Jean Giono: War! Who’s the madman in charge of all this? Who’s the madman who gives the orders?


Jean Giono
From To the Slaughterhouse (Le grand troupeau) (1931)
Translated by Norman Glass

Giono (1)

“Arthur of all people,” Jerome said. “I never knew a finer fellow. And what guts he had and what a damn hard worker he was.”

“Ah, Jerome,” Alberic sighed. “But there’s no way out. We’ve got to tell her. I haven’t been leading a real life for a long time. Every day I see these sheets of paper, every day, wherever I am. The first one included the usual kind of praise – the country! the field of glory! If I don’t get the lists in the morning, I wait and tremble until they come. Every time I open one of them now I feel as though I’m being led to the slaughterhouse. Oh, I earn my money for the work I do, believe me, I earn my money, and the news I bring nearly breaks my own heart! You get used to people, you know. You’re going to Arsène’s, I tell myself. When you arrive, the mother’ll be there and the wife will be near the kitchen sink. I can see it all. They’ll turn round quickly to see who it is when I open the door. And it’s me, Jerome, it’s always me!”

“Godforsaken times!”

“You can say that again. They look at me, their lips dry as burned grass. I told that to the mayor. He said to me: ‘Seems to me they’ll get used to it.’ Get used to it! Get used to that! No, that’ll never happen, it’s against nature!”

Felicity saw them coming, stopped feeding the chickens, and held her hands up to her eyes to distinguish them clearly. She recognized Alberic and let the maize fall from her apron. There was a riot among the chickens. She ran through them to the farm. Jerome and Alberic walked on slowly. They opened the door. She had understood everything already. She was bent down across the table, her faced pressed against the wood, and she banged the table with both her fists. “No!” she cried. “No!”

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