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Frigyes Karinthy: Started war of self-defense by attacking neighbor


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

Frigyes Karinthy: Lost his mind on the battlefield, thought he knew what he was fighting for


Frigyes Karinthy
From Voyage to Faremido
Gulliver’s Fifth Voyage (1916)
Translated by Paul Tabori


Machines and compositions surpassed man; they became more perfect, and soon we reached the point where, if he wanted to be perfect, Man was forced to imitate the machines and works which had once imitated him. A human being was accorded less respect than his imitation. I remember how, shortly before my journey to Faremido, I was filled with deep indignation when the barbaric Germans began to shell the Cathedral of Rheims, and at the same time I hardly noticed the number of the soldiers killed in the battle. We all knew too how much more it meant, how much greater enthusiasm the news awakened that we had captured one of two ships or five or six cannon of our enemy – far greater than the report that we had succeeded in killing five or six thousand men. Five guns were the equal of five thousand people – and the loss of each amounted to the same thing.


The same evening I was found by a Norwegian farmer. I was told that I was in a neutral country, not far from Christiana, and that I had no cause to fear any harm until I reached the frontier. Whether I could get home without a passport was highly doubtful – for Britain, at war with Germany, happened to be on bad terms with the Scandinavian states. The Norwegian farmer was much surprised by my total indifference to the development of the World War during the past eighteen months; what territories the belligerent powers had occupied, how many men they had lost, how many they had enslaved, what was the number of those that had perished of the plague, how many planes had been shot down, how many cities bombed, how many generals decorated and how many dismissed from command.

From Capillaria
Gulliver’s Sixth Voyage
Translated by Paul Tabori

When the Germans started their war of self-defence by attacking Britain and doing everything to occupy our country so that they, the Germans, should have no further need of self-defence, indignation over this dastardly attack summoned all honest men to arms; among them my humble self. The inspiring slogan that our women and children must be defended moved my beloved wife to tears – as a deeply patriotic daughter of her country, she was willing to give up everything for Britain – she did not hesitate for a moment to sacrifice even my life, if need be, for the holy cause. She encouraged me to volunteer as soon as possible…She prevailed upon me to take out a policy with a recently formed insurance company – a transaction that, in view of my status, was completed only with great difficulty and involved the payment of a very large annual premium.


Failing any other way, unification had to be achieved by invasion and occupation. As soon as war broke out, all exits were sealed up watertight so that the cowardly rabble could not escape and shirk their military duties. By locking the exits we succeeded in creating the enthusiastic mood necessary for attack – the whole tower was highly excited, everybody rushed toward the only exit left, the top ledge where the first clashes had already erupted and fighting with the soldiers of the neighboring tower had begun. I myself was sent to the front in the capacity as Chief Rallier. As a brave soldier, I soon distinguished myself, inspired greatly by the Idea of Tower Defence which promised eternal peace and full employment for the whole world.

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