Home > Uncategorized > Jean-Paul Sartre: They lift their heads and look up at the sky, the poisonous sky

Jean-Paul Sartre: They lift their heads and look up at the sky, the poisonous sky


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

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

French writers on war and peace

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Jean-Paul Sartre: When the rich fight the rich, it is the poor who die


Jean-Paul Sartre
From The Age of Reason (1945)
Translated by Eric Sutton


“Aerial bombardment of Valencia,” Mathieu read, and looked up with a vague sense of irritation: the rue Réaumur, a street of blackened copper. Two o’clock, the moment of the day when the heat was the most menacing, it curled and crackled down the center of the street like a long electric spark. “Forty airplanes circled over the center of the city for an hour and dropped a hundred and fifty bombs. The exact number of dead is not yet ascertained.” He noticed out of the corner of his eye, beneath the headline, a horrid, huddled little paragraph in italics, which looked very chatty and convincing: “From our special correspondent,” and gave the figures. Fifty dead and three hundred wounded had already been counted, but that was not the total, there were certainly corpses under the debris. No airplanes, no A.A. guns. Mathieu felt vaguely guilty. Fifty dead and three hundred wounded – what exactly did that signify? A full hospital? Something like a bad railway accident? Fifty dead…He clenched his fists, he strode along but nothing came, the anger remained external to himself. He had been to Valencia, he had seen the Fiesta in ’34, and a great corrida in which Ortega and El Estudiante had taken part. His thought circled above the town, seeking a church, a road, the façade of a house, of which he could say: “I saw that, they’ve destroyed it, it no longer stands.” Ah! His thought swooped on to a darkened street, lying crushed under huge monuments. “I have been there, I used to walk there in the morning, stifling in the scorching shade, while the sky blazed far above the people’s heads. That’s it.” The bombs had fallen on that street, on the great gray monuments, the street had been enormously widened, it now extended into the interiors of the houses, there was no more shade in that street, the sky had dissolved and was pouring down upon the roadway, and the sun beat upon the debris…And yet it’s all real down yonder, somewhere beneath the same sun, it’s real, the cars have stopped, the windows have been smashed, poor dumb women sit huddled like dead chickens beside actual corpses, they lift their heads from time to time and look up at the sky, the poisonous sky…

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