Home > Uncategorized > Henri Troyat: Shedding blood for the motherland: War is ugly and absurd

Henri Troyat: Shedding blood for the motherland: War is ugly and absurd


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

Henri Troyat: Selections on war


Henri Troyat
From While the Earth Endures (1947)
Translated by David Hapgood

Rendezvous With Henri Troyat

Volodia was not in a joking mood: whereas the day before he had looked lightly at the future, now he was following the latest diplomatic and military reports with passionate interest. The approach of war had made him abandon his bravado and turn serious. He said, “War is ugly and absurd,” and “I have seen officers who were afraid to go to the front. Heroism is just a state of hysteria.”


The people greeted the war with sullen anger. They did not understand this bloody adventure; they took it as a malignant and incomprehensible act of fate. Column after column of soldiers was sent to Manchuria. They spent weeks in cattle-cars, crossed frozen Lake Baikal, and met the furious assault of the “yellow devils.” Why did they have to go and die? They were not defending the soil of Russia, but the financial interests of the Tsar’s friends…


Akim looked at his blade; it was soaked with blood. He suddenly felt shameful. He could not help seeing that horror-torn face, that scar, that open mouth, that arm lifted in threat or prayer. “I won’t think about that…something else…Let’s see now…The glory of the Russian Army, the beloved Tsar, the oath to the flag, shedding blood for the motherland…excellent…”

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