Paul Morand: Nations never lay down their arms; death which is still combative
From The Living Buddha (1928)
Translated by Madeleine Boyd
“Life is bad, Monseigneur, but everybody is attached to it.”
“Because we are rich in reasons for being alive. To covet is the first. A thing is worth something in our eyes when it belongs to someone else. It is cupidity which once upon a time threw the bourgeois upon the nobles and to-day the people upon the bourgeois; the strong upon the weak; the young against the old; the women against the men. Everything crashes with us and that may be why there are so many flashes of lightning…What is true of the West is true of the nations. They never lay down their arms. Some perish, are devoured, others wounded. Some stopped, seized with uneasiness. A few hours before, they looked healthy, with gold in their banks, with allies and invincible armies: now they are down, their strength ebbing through new or old wounds; their unguided mechanism goes on functioning in emptiness, producing, perhaps, or poisoning. Proud, hardened to suffering, those nations are the last to doubt their own power, and they are wrong. Look at England.”
“Then there are illnesses of nations?” asked the Prince.
“There is also old age of nations; constitutions that are too old; arterio-sclerotic administrations; no money for medicines and a senile taste for economy; a horror of fresh air; alcohol at all the street corners and no milk; soon, disordered reflexes, a panic of healthy organs at the expense of others; prostration, a delirium of persecution; poverty. I have seen that a short while ago.”
“In France, Monseigneur, in my own country.”
“Afterwards comes general paralysis and death.
“Of course, life is an illness we all die of; but what one sees there is death without rest, death which is still combative, an end without hope, a shout which is suddenly choked, an interrupted curse…”