Alberto Moravia: War survives in our souls long after it is over
From Two Women (1958)
Translated by Angus Davidson
I reflected that war was war, as Concetta was always saying, and that in war it is always the best who are lost because they are the most courageous, the most unselfish, the most honest, and some of them get killed like poor Michele and some of them are maimed for life like my Rosetta. The worst people, on the other hand, those who have no courage, no faith, no religion, no pride, who kill and steal and think of themselves and follow their own selfish interests – these come through safely and prosper, and become even more brazen and depraved than they were before.
I had not foreseen that – as Concetta was always saying – war is war; by which I mean that war, even after it is over, still goes on, like a savage beast at the point of death which still seeks to do harm and can still strike out.
There had been neither pity, nor feeling, nor human sympathy; a human being died and other human beings remained indifferent, each for his own reasons. In short, it was the war, as Concetta had said, and I had now come to fear that this war would continue to survive in our souls long after the real war was over.
Sorrow, I thought of Michele, who was not with us in this eagerly longed-for moment of return and would never be with us again. I remembered the evening in front of the hut at Sant’Eufemia when he had read aloud to us the passage from the Gospel about Lazarus, and had been so angry with the peasants who had failed to understand anything, and had cried out that we were all dead and waiting for resurrection, like Lazarus. At the time Michele’s words had left me in doubt, but now I saw that Michele had been right, and that for some time now Rosetta and I had indeed been dead, dead to the pity we owe to others and to ourselves. But sorrow had saved us at the last moment, and so in a way the passage about Lazarus held good for us too, since at last, thanks to sorrow, we had emerged from the war which had enclosed us in its tomb of indifference and wickedness, and had started to walk again along the path of our own life, which was, maybe, a poor thing full of obscurities and errors but nevertheless the only life we ought to live, as no doubt Michele would have told us if he had been with us.