Home > Uncategorized > Ernest Hemingway: Beaten to start with, beaten when they took them from their farms and put them in the army

Ernest Hemingway: Beaten to start with, beaten when they took them from their farms and put them in the army

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ernest Hemingway: Selections on war

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Ernest Hemingway
From A Farewell to Arms (1929)

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I went to the door and looked out. It had stopped raining but there was a mist.

“Should we go upstairs?” I asked the priest.

“I can only stay a little while.”

“Come on up.”

We climbed the stairs and went into my room. I lay down on Rinaldi’s bed. The priest sat on my cot that the orderly had set up. It was dark in the room.

“Well,” he said, “how are you really?”

“I’m all right. I’m tired to-night.”

“I’m tired too, but from no cause.”

“What about the war?”

“I think it will be over soon. I don’t know why, but I feel it.”

“How do you feel it?”

“You know how your major is? Gentle? Many people are like that now.”

“I feel that way myself,” I said.

“It has been a terrible summer,” said the priest. He was surer of himself now than when I had gone away.

“You cannot believe how it has been. Except that you have been there and you know how it can be. Many people have realized the war this summer. Officers whom I thought could never realize it realize it now.”

“What will happen?” I stroked the blanket with my hand.

“I do not know but I do not think it can go on much longer.”

“What will happen?”

“They will stop fighting.”

“Who?”

“Both sides.”

“I hope so,” I said.

“You don’t believe it?”

“I don’t believe both sides will stop fighting at once.”

“I suppose not. It is too much to expect. But when I see the changes in men I do not think it can go on.”

“Who won the fighting this summer?”

“No one.”

“The Austrians won,” I said. “They kept them from taking San Gabriele. They’ve won. They won’t stop fighting.”

“If they feel as we feel they may stop. They have gone through the same thing.”

“No one ever stopped when they were winning.”

“You discourage me.”

“I can only say what I think.”

“Then you think it will go on and on? Nothing will ever happen?”

“I don’t know. I only think the Austrians will not stop when they have won a victory. It is in defeat that we become Christian.”

“The Austrians are Christians — except for the Bosnians.”

“I don’t mean technically Christian. I mean like Our Lord.”

He said nothing.

“We are all gentler now because we are beaten. How would Our Lord have been if Peter had rescued
him in the Garden?”

“He would have been just the same.”

“I don’t think so,” I said.

“You discourage me,” he said. “I believe and I pray that something will happen. I have felt it very close.”

“Something may happen,” I said. “But it will happen only to us. If they felt the way we do, it would be all right. But they have beaten us. They feel another way.”

“Many of the soldiers have always felt this way. It is not because they were beaten.”

“They were beaten to start with. They were beaten when they took them from their farms and put them
in the army. That is why the peasant has wisdom, because he is defeated from the start. Put him in power and see how wise he is.”

He did not say anything. He was thinking.

“Now I am depressed myself,” I said. “That’s why I never think about these things. I never think and
yet when I begin to talk I say the things I have found out in my mind without thinking.”

“I had hoped for something.”

“Defeat?”

“No. Something more.”

“There isn’t anything more. Except victory. It may be worse.”

“I hoped for a long time for victory.”

“Me too.”

“Now I don’t know.”

“It has to be one or the other.”

“I don’t believe in victory any more.”

“I don’t. But I don’t believe in defeat. Though it may be better.”

“What do you believe in ?”

“In sleep,” I said. He stood up.

“I am very sorry to have stayed so long. But I like so to talk with you.”

“It is very nice to talk again. I said that about sleeping, meaning nothing.”

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