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Vladimir Pozner: Mars and Ceres

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

French writers on war and peace

Russian writers on war

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Vladimir Pozner
From First Harvest (Les Gens du pays) (1943)
Translated by Haakon Chevalier

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He derived no pleasure from trampling the tilled fields pf others, whether they were Poles, Belgians, or Greeks – for he had traveled a great deal in the course of the following months – and he observed his companions with a disapproving eye, especially the young ones, ignorant and talkative townspeople like his brother-in-law, the café-waiter, who frantically went about ruining the land. Each time he saw a field delivered to the treads of the tanks, a cow galloping before a fire, he would think of his farm, and his heart would contract. He could not figure out why the builders of the New Order – certain magic words of the time had found their way to him – should begin by tearing down fences and burning barns. In short, in the triumphal march across the Continent which the world agreed in recognizing as the best organized in history, Huber discerned only a frightful mess.

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Grimaces going back to an even more remote past were superimposed upon her features; her lower lip expanded, protruded as it did when she was a child to announce tears; and in a voice which her sister hardly recognized, not having heard it since their adolescence, Madame Jeanne said, “But they can’t shoot people that way, Marton.”

Perhaps she remembered the last war, the chef commenting at breakfast on the news in the paper; the pits of Vincennes, where spies were executed; Mata-Hari the flashy “and the officer waved his white-gloved hand”; perhaps she dumbly believed in the solemnity of death.

“Yes, they can,” said Marthe.

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