Alfred Neumann: European hegemony emerges from piled-up corpses, out of recent graves
From Empire (1936)
Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul
Life is splendid. God, what is there so splendid about it? The dolorous town must first be beautiful. War rages: the Crimean War, a barbarous war in a barbarous land, war against the Russians, war of pestilence against the soldiers, whether these be Russians, Frenchmen, Englishmen, or Turks. There are three hundred thousand dead, it is rumoured, and only a fifth of that number from wounds, for the remaining four-fifths have succumbed to epidemic diseases. What sort of a war is that, and why is France taking part in it? Who asks such questions except with bated breath? Not a soul. Sebastopol has fallen. A glorious victory. The crown of good fortune. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Peace Congress is sitting, while strings are pulled from the Tuileries, and the world hangs upon the sparse and kindly utterances of the Emperor. Vive l’Empereur! No need to whisper that, so one shouts.
The hope of absolute power danced upon the graves of those shot in the street-fighting of December 4th. Upon the piled-up corpses of the Crimean War was founded the hope of European hegemony. Good God, how hope returned to him again and again, clinging, authoritarian, and usually emerging out of recent graves. The righteous Le Bas had assured him that the luck of the New Caesar was not a sun but a sepulchral lamp.