Alfred Neumann: The morals and manners of the War God
From Another Caesar (1934)
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul
In Toulon, the King of Holland was waiting for the Queen – or, rather, Louis was waiting for Hortense…His blood was at enmity with him, in his own body and in the body of another. The War God was of his own blood. Enigmatic but inevitable; and from the War God came everything; the good that turned to evil, and the evil that remained evil. Only the stiffness of his limbs was a product of his own body, and perhaps not even that; for rheumatism had afflicted him since the Italian campaign, when he had been his brother’s aide-de-camp, and a valiant one moreover, for fear of Napoleon. From the War God came everything, even the hatred for his brother, and the hidden longing to rebel. From his brother, likewise, came his wife.
Colonel Louis had been ordered to marry Hortense, because the War God had had no children by her mother Josephine. Colonel Louis was dragooned into the marriage-bed in order to procreate a son for his great brother. He obeyed, without any choice in the matter, without love, and only from fear. Hortense obeyed, from love of the War God, who was her stepfather, and perhaps also the father of her first son. Maybe he was, maybe he was not. The War God gave his younger brother this terrible uncertainty as dowry – a venomous dowry; and, perhaps, the brooding did not begin with the birth of the first son, an eight-months’ child…
N was the sign under which Europe was conquered. An unceasing conquest, a sign and a signal; a new constellation: an anti-cross, an extraordinarily popular symbol to establish the young crown that stood above the letter. N was striding over the land and over the people. N was his signature to all documents except to those to which the formal “Napoleon” had to be appended in full. A continually larger, thicker, more impressive, more preposterously misshapen N; no longer a sign-manual, but the totem of a maniacal relationship to omnipotence…
The Prince Imperial was not, like other Christian children, baptized with a few days or weeks. The War God had no time to attend to the matter, and the youngster remained nameless for two years and a half. Meanwhile the clock had ticked away a good many seconds. N continued to win victories: against Spain, against Austria; even against God Almighty, whose sacraments he disregarded, because he wanted a new empress…There were troops standing to arms in Holland, Chronos was devouring his own children, and N was devouring the brother, who made no defence…