Alfred Neumann: War’s arena, a monstrous distortion, a blasphemous coupling of life and death
From Guerra (1930)
Translated by Huntley Paterson
“…What is it all about? What is the good of it? Are those fellows going to sleep any more peacefully because they are drunk with thoughts of war? And it won’t be a matter of sleep, but of death…Good God, mesdames, that was a good bull in Arles! A little beast with cow’s eyes, who did not want anything to do with men. But the arena was thirsting for blood and killed him in accordance with all the rules of the art. It took twenty-five minutes! I learnt all sorts of things from that; I was bursting with indignation. Je protestais enérgiquement with a black-bearded beggar who had lost his legs – you know, a sort of centaur on four wheels instead of the usual two pins – and under the shadow of the decadent old Saint Trophimus, I talked myself into two excellent philosophies over the little beast, one for private and the other for demagogic use. Very well, Madda, today I am Minister of War, and tomorrow there will be war, bright, joyous, sacred war, with dead and wounded – magnificent, Madda! The whole crowd cheered, the fine young students are now practising marching in step, and polishing up their second-rate muskets, and rejoicing at the thought of death! – Magnificent, Madda! But where in my tragedy is the good bull of Arles? I cannot find him…”
“Do you imagine then,” inquired Guerra, carried away by his companion’s words, “do you imagine, my dear friend, that I do not love life?”
The blind man nodded slowly, his hand moving in harmony. He was still smiling.
“I believe you do,” he replied, “for even I love life, although my eyes at least know more of death than your worst nightmares wot of. But I also know all manner of things about life, not much less than you people who can see. I know that the beauty of life is greater than the beauty of death, which is beautiful enough. I have a very vivid conception of human beauty, or of the beauty of youth, which amounts almost to the same thing; for the very fact that one has beautiful life before one, makes one beautiful. The fine young men whom we refrained from telling that was was a calamity, a monstrous distortion, a blasphemous coupling of life and death, and whom we decked out as though they were going to a banquet…”