Giuseppe Berto: No one truly survives war
From The Sky Is Red (1947)
Translated by Angus Davidson
He forced himself not to get up and look. It was useless to look. The town was just as it always was; he had a clear picture of it in his mind, with its towers and belfries rising above the roofs, and its many ruined houses, and its heaps of rubble, pale or dark in color, where the bombs have fallen.
And the people too, he knew just what they were like, he had observed them in the streets and in the market. People who struggled without ceasing to find food so as not to die, who were falling more and more to pieces, because they had nothing more to live for except to find food so as not to die.
Suddenly he knew that his departure had brought him no solution. He felt more empty and alone and desolate that he had ever before. It was clear that there still was something wrong. He tried to put his thoughts into order, considering them carefully one by one. Giulia was dead, and his mother and his father and Tullio were dead also. He could find no remedy by depending on them, since they were no longer there. And Carla too was lost irremediably. There was nothing he could do about Carla, in spite of a few moments of weakness. He could not go back to her and tell her that together they would find an object in life, when he himself was so empty. It would have no meaning. And the old man had said such a lot of things, things that were meant to help him. You must have faith in humanity, he had said, and he had spoken of the great day when good would return to the earth for all men. But he did not want to wait for that great day; he did not believe in it. Neither did the old man believe in it, and anyhow he would never live to see it, for he had sold his bed in order to eat. Now he would not be able to sell anything more, and he would die, and death would be the best thing for him, since he was alone and desolate. And in any case it would not in the least matter to him, even if the old man died of starvation. He would not feel any grief on that account. He was indifferent, like all the rest of the world, to everything outside himself. He felt spiteful towards all the rest of humanity.
Gradually they came to understand. It was no longer a war that had to be endured, it was a war that had been lost. In spite of all that was said, it must be recognized that it was a lost war. And they had been left alone to bear the burden of defeat, a burden too great for an impoverished people, in a land devastated and disabled by war. Nor was it possible to foresee when the burden of defeat would be lightened. Perhaps this would not come about during the period of a man’s lifetime; and so all these men who were living and thinking now, could never be happy again in their lives, could never again have enough food and clothing and shelter from the cold, or any certainty of being still alive the next day.