Home > Uncategorized > Pierre Boulle: The long reach of war profiteers

Pierre Boulle: The long reach of war profiteers

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

Pierre Boulle
From La face (1956)
Translated by Xan Fielding


Guillaume Vauban – there was nothing he did not know about him! “Good-for-nothing” – wasn’t that what Widow Durasse had called him? “Utterly rotten” would have been nearer the truth! A slimy character, always violent when he drank, he thought he could do exactly as he liked simply because his father had made a fortune during the war and had influential connections. He had been mixed up in all sorts of dirty business. The last time, a year ago, he had even had a brush with the police. If it had not been for his father he would probably have been put in jail.

Jean Berthier tried hard not to listen, but the little he heard of this droning monologue had the pestilential stink of dishonesty and double-dealing. It amounted to this: high finance, in the person of Vauban, was at the root of it all; all the others were mere puppets in his hands. In his heedless desire to convince him, Laigle gradually revealed the truth in all its hideous details…So the play he had seen three months before, which he had regarded as utterly libelous, was based on true facts after all. That world actually existed, and was now making proposals to him…”

“But you can’t refuse, Jean. It’s such a small thing to ask you to do…Think of your future, think of your wife. Vauban would never forgive you if you refused. And he’s a man with a lot of power.”

This was sheer blackmail: promises followed by threats…

“The accused’s father, gentleman, whom we were all prepared to pity, whose suffering we would all have shared had he adopted a decent attitude – I have no compunction about mentioning his name here today in order to reprove his conduct. He never hesitated to employ every underhanded scheme he could think of. I must put the jury on their guard against the impudent stratagems of the gang he directs.”

“Under his control this arrogant, mercenary gang, whose members, I regret to say, include a number of well-known public figures, have done all they could to obstruct the course of justice, sowing doubt and disorder in certain simple minds, and tipping the scales with their ill-gotten gold to further an iniquitous cause.”

“Secret weapons have been introduced into this case for the most iniquitous purposes, by the foulest and most underhand means imaginable. These weapons have been leveled against the forces of law and order, including myself. The powers of Evil have tried to corrupt us and press us into the service of their loathsome cause. I am sorry to say, gentlemen, that among us there are some who weakened and succumbed…”

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