Home > Uncategorized > Alfred Neumann: The stench of burning flesh. That happens sometimes.

Alfred Neumann: The stench of burning flesh. That happens sometimes.


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

Alfred Neumann: Selections on war


Alfred Neumann
From The Mirror of Fools (1933)
Translated by Trevor and Phyllis Brewitt


Towards evening they reached a burnt-out village. It looked melancholy and also accusatory. The blackened walls that were still standing had jagged, pointed, or toothed and at the same time sharpened edges, as though they wanted to turn themselves, even after the event, into weapons. The gaps, windows, and breaches in them, however, revealed the interiors with an air of resignation, laying bare not only the signs of destruction, but the signs and indications of the life that had been and was now laid waste: a room, a wall, the skeleton or ruin of a table, a cupboard, a bed, and the implements of peace. They were pitiable memorials, and the place smelt of disaster – not so much of the corrosives of fire and smoke grown cold as of strange, uncanny, and abhorrent exhalations. There was a stench of disaster.

When both the eyes and nose of a man with an empty stomach and an aching head are subjected to such an impression, then all the torments of the outer and inner world are heightened. Heinrich had a gigantic stomach and, therefore, a gigantic void in his body, and a devilishly magnified nightmare before his eyes. On his brow, his temples, and the back of his head there pressed an iron hoop, which grew ever tighter. “There has already been fighting here?” he weakly asked Captain Koller.

“Not at all, a little example, probably on account of some act of indisciplne.”

The Duke thought of the swinging peasant.

“You hang up whole villages on the gallows,” he said, soemwhat confused.

“Rather, on the spit,” laughed Koller.

“There is a stench of disaster here,” coughed the Duke.

“Only of burnt flesh or of some dead body,” said Koller. “That happens sometimes.”


“There has been fighting in this district, Captain?”

“No, Your Highness.”

“Then why does Kasimir burn every district to the ground? Devil take it!”

“In order that you may have the scent and be able to follow him,” laughed Koller.

A shudder passed through the Duke, for he took the words as seriously as the war.

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