Home > Uncategorized > Nathanael West: Every defeat is a victory in a war of attrition

Nathanael West: Every defeat is a victory in a war of attrition

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

American writers on peace and against war

Nathanael West: Selections on war

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Nathanael West
From Good Hunting (1938)

nathanael-west (1)

JARVIS

C company has been joined with D, making D full strength again.
(Moves flags)

FITZSIMMONS
(Ironically)

They’ll get two dinners per man tonight and double tobacco ration.

JARVIS
(Philosophically)

Wellington said: “You’ve got to break eggs to make an omelette.”

FITZSIMMONS

We’re not using eggs.

JARVIS

We must take the long view – every defeat is a victory in a war of attrition.

FITZSIMMONS

What would the men in the front lines think of that?

JARVIS

They know nothing of military science.

FITZSIMMONS

I think I could explain your war of attrition so they’d understand it. It’s like checkers. We have so many more men on the board than they have that we can afford to lose three of ours for every one of theirs and still win.

JARVIS
(Shocked)

The censors would never permit such an explanation.

FITZSIMMONS

Of course not. You couldn’t make war without the censors.

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GRACE

(…BOWKER comes in on his way to the garden, carrying some silver)

(Stopping him and examining the silver)

What beautiful Chinese silver, Bowker. Does the government issue it?

BOWKER

No, ma’am. We captured it in the Boxer rebellion.

GRACE

Looting!

BOWKER
(Smiling)

Spoils of war, rather, ma’am.

GRACE

The General should bring thinks like that home. What’s the use of being a soldier’s wife if one doesn’t get souvenirs?

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