Home > Uncategorized > Arnold Zweig: Never again! On reading Barbusse

Arnold Zweig: Never again! On reading Barbusse


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

German writers on peace and war

Arnold Zweig: Selections on war

Henri Barbusse: Selections on war


Arnold Zweig
From The Crowning of a King (1937)
Translated by Eric Sutton


Those hours were for Bertin a time of passion and upheaval. He had read a volume of short stories, Men in War, and Man is Good, and meanwhile had hurried through the numbers of the Weisse Blätter, published in Zürich by the best man in Alsace, equally distinguished for his courage, his independence, and his admirable German style. And at the same time Bertin wandered as though in person through all the ramifying trenches of a novel called Le Feu which described the destinies of a platoon on the fields of Northern France which he knew from the opposite side – between the ravines of earth which he himself had helped to excavate, and which, half ruinous in summer and a mass of slime in winter, enclosed the vision of his near-sighted eyes. It all came back to him: the smell of it, the whistle, the crash, and clatter when the aviators dropped their bombs, and the dash for shelter from the hail of shrapnel that always followed. In the next company a man had hanged himself because he was given no leave and would not go on – Was all this happening there, or here? Barbusse or Bondues? Which word stood for an author, and which for a patch of earth dug out and walled, vaulted with concrete and roofed with tiles and grass? Both equally immortal and anonymous. Then the storm waves in the blue steel helmets appear, lines of black-faced men from Senegal. Heroes these, thinks the narrator, and so do all those who read of them. With their bayonets across their arms they wait, peering motionless across the steel-swept spaces between the lines. Shades of colours, parties, countries – what do they matter? This is human fellowship flung into the mire and abomination of this war; there is a common task, to find the outlet from this slaughter-house into what is called ordered society, where men can live together in good will. A fire came forth from the pages of the book and filled Bertin; its message was: Never again! and: Towards a better time! And in that night hour he felt that millions and more millions round the globe bore within them this same impulse that throbbed in the very pulsations of their blood: Never again! and: Towards a better time!

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