Ignazio Silone: They have been warned of wars and rumors of wars
From Bread and Wine (1936)
Translated by Gwenda David and Eric Mosbacher
The mobilization of the paupers and the hungry at Fossa also involved the mobilization of the insolvent. The directors of the Fossa Bank had asked to be sent to Africa to forestall their trial for fraudulent bankruptcy, and their patriotic example had been widely followed. The haberdasher in the public square opposite the Girasole Hotel had failed and been compelled to put up his shutters, but that morning he had reopened, put his wife behind the counter and a large notice outside the shop, saying “Creditors are informed that the proprietor of this shop has voluntarily enlisted.” Henceforward no authority would dare decree the sequestration of the goods of a war hero…
“This is a mortgage war!” the tax-office clerk remarked, running his eye down the list of volunteers.
“So I ask myself: where is the Lord and why has He abandoned us?” he went on. “The loud-speakers proclaiming the outbreak of war in all the market-places were certainly not the Lord. The bells that rang to summon the ragged and hungry crowds were certainly not the Lord. The shelling of African villages and the bombing raids of which the papers tell us every day are certainly not the Lord. But if a poor man, alone in his village, gets up at night and takes a piece of chalk or charcoal and writes on the village walls: ‘Down with the war! Long live the brotherhood of all peoples! Long live liberty!’ behind that poor man is the Lord. In his contempt for the dangers that threaten him, in the secret love he nourishes for our so-called African enemies, in his love of liberty, there is an echo of the Lord…”
“I watched a popular demonstration at Fossa on the occasion of the outbreak of the war,” the young man said. “It almost made me afraid to see a whole crowd fall a prey to the most primitive instincts. The poor peasants believe in the Leader as in an all-powerful wizard, the priests believe in him as the man of Providence,”
“If the priests allow themselves to be deceived, it is their own fault,” the man interrupted. “They have been warned for two thousand years. They were told that many would come in the name of Providence and seduce the people, that there would be talk of wars and rumors of wars. They were told that all this would come to pass, but that the end would be not yet. They were told that nation would rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom; that there would be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places; but that all these things would not be the end, but the beginning. The Christians were warned a long time ago. Many will be horrified and many will betray. And if some one (even if it is the Pope himself) says: ‘Here is a Man of Providence! There is a Man of Providence!’ we must not believe him. We have been warned. False prophets and false saviors shall rise and shall show great signs and wonders, and shall deceive many. We could not demand a plainer warning. If many have forgotten it, it will not change anything of that which will come to pass. The destiny of their Man of Providence has already been written. Intrabit ut vulpis, regnabit ut leo, morietur ut canis. He will come in like a fox, reign like a lion, and die like a dog.”