Alberto Moravia: Torn colored posters inciting people to war
From Two Women (1958)
Translated by Angus Davidson
All this time the war was going on, but I paid no attention to it and when, after the light music on the radio, they read the communiqué I used to say to Rosetta: “Turn it off, turn that radio off. Let the bastards cut each other’s throats as much as they like but I don’t want to hear about it. What does their war matter to us? They started it among themselves without asking the opinion of the poor people who have to go and get mixed up in it, and so we, who are the poor people, are justified in taking no notice of it.”
Rosetta also made me read her fianceé’s last letter, and I remember one sentence particularly: “We’re leading a really hard life here. These Slavs don’t want to give in to us and we’re always in a state of alarm.” I didn’t know anything about Yugoslavia, however I said to Rosetta: “What on earth are we doing in that country? Couldn’t we stay in our own homes? Those people don’t want to give in to us and they’re perfectly right, I tell you, they’re perfectly right.”
I felt sorry for Rosetta because I knew she was suffering, and I said: “My blessed child, once this bad moment is past, everything will be all right, you’ll see it will. The war will come to an end, we shall have plenty of everything again, and you’ll get married and be with your husband, and then you’ll be happy.” Just at that moment, as though answering me back, came the sound of the air raid warning, that accursed noise which seemed to me to bring ill luck and made my heart sink every time I heard it. Then a rage came over me and I opened the window facing the courtyard and raised my fist toward the sky and shouted: “May you come to a bad end, and the people who sent you too, and the ones who asked you to come!”
“But, for us to be able to come home, which is it which ought to win – the Germans or the English?” I was put out by this question, because, as I have said, I never read the papers and, into the bargain, had never taken any interest in knowing how the war was going. “I don’t know what plans they’ve got,” I said; “all I know is that they’re bastards, the whole lot of them, both English and Germans, and that they make these wars without consulting unfortunate poeple like us…”
All the streets were empty, and the grey air at the far end of each of them looked like steam from the washing when the clothes are very dirty. On the ground the early morning dampness made the paving stones shine so that they were like iron. There were only dogs to be seen: I saw five or six of them, ugly, starved-looking and dirty, sniffing at corners of houses and then pissing against walls from which hung torn colored posters inciting people to war.