Home > Uncategorized > Gabrielle Roy: This was the hope that was uplifting mankind once again: to do away with war

Gabrielle Roy: This was the hope that was uplifting mankind once again: to do away with war


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

Women writers on peace and war


Gabrielle Roy
From The Tin Flute (Bonheur d’occasion) (1945)
Translated by Hannah Josephson


“There was never any lack of work to be done. Nor men either. I’ve seen fifty men fighting for one job. I wonder then what was lacking.”

“Money,” said Azarius.

“Yes, money,” thundered Sam. “There was never enough for old age insurance, never enough for the schools of orphans, never enough to give everybody a job. But look here, there’s money enough for war. They’ve got money for that!”

“There’s always enough money for war, that’s a fact,” replied Azarius.


In a flash of illumination she felt her kinship with all the women of distant countries, whether Poles, Norwegians, Czechs or Slovaks. They were women like her. Women of the common people. Working women. Women who for centuries had seen their husbands and children go off to war. One era passed and another came, but it was always thus: women in all ages had waved goodbye and wept to see their men march away. It seemed to her that she was plodding along this sunny afternoon, not alone, but in the ranks of thousands of other women, and that their sighs echoed in her ears, the weary sighs of the needy, of the working women of all ages. She was one of those who had nothing to defend but their husbands and their sons. She was one of those who never sang at the final leave-taking. She was one of those who looked on dry-eyed, cursing war in their hearts, as the men set out for battle.


“Why do you suppose we are going off to war, you father, your brother and I?” he asked.

She looked at him in surprise.

“You mean why did you enlist?”


Well, I can see only one reason,” she said soberly. “It’s because there’s something in it for all of you in the army.”

He studied her for a long time. Yes, he should have thought of that sooner. She was much closer to the people that he; she knew them better. Her answers were the right ones. He looked around at the crowd. And he seemed to hear the same answer that Florentine had just given him on thousands of lips. Behind the crowd’s deep breath of liberation he thought he could hear the sound of money clinking.

They too, he mused. They too have been bought, as much as anybody, more than anybody!

And it seemed to him that with his own eyes he was witnessing the final bankruptcy of mankind. Wealth had spoken the truth on the mountain.

But after a moment he took himself to task. He went on to think: But no, that’s not the whole truth. Those who fight profit least from the war. There are ever so many Léon Boisberts and Jean Lévesques who will rise in the world and perhaps make a fortune, thanks to the war, without taking any risks.


She was a tiny, shrunken, fragile old woman with a look of gentle resignation on her face, alone among strangers.

For one moment their glances crossed. And at that moment Emmanuel understood. The humble little woman was moving her lips as if to give him one last message. The words did not reach Emmanuel, but he could see by the movement of her lips that she was saying something that only he understood: “This will end. One day it will end. One day it will all come to an end.”

And Emmanuel saw the light. This was the hope, so ill understood by most men, that was uplifting mankind once again: to do away with war.

Categories: Uncategorized
    December 20, 2013 at 8:15 am

    As I fought daily as a Super Storm Sandy First Responder in rescue and recovery in the Far Rockaways, NY MY thoughts were those above. Dr. Lester Brown of the Climate Change Institute in Washington, DC in his Text Plan B 2.0 says that we must spend more on Climate Change disaster mitigation and recovery. We must spend more on our human survival and less on wars and soldiers and arms. If we spent just 5 % of the total War Machine Worldwide budget then I would not have to be deployed to at risk to life and limb or support Sandy and Moore Oklahoma or the Philippines Mega disasters. Yes ,there always seems enough money $$$ for WARS. Mr. Rozoff, I have ‘lived’ a rather joyless life because of Cold War I with no Jewish children now in my old age. Would it not be wonderful if the shakers and movers and rich and powerful just took at least 5% or more of your advise and work to make joy for all humanity. I find that THEY the WAR makers worldwide will not listen as the military-industrial complex that gives money to the War machine worldwide are just blind to others joy. Us soldiers will never see an end to war until dead as Plato says. Make love and NOT WAR- Captain Kamansky -Cold War I soldier

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