Jean Dutourd: The horrors of war
From The Horrors of Love (1963)
Translated by Robin Chancellor
When the Germans attacked in May 1940, I was in Alsace and thought my last hour had come. They had posted me at the corner of a wood with a machine gun and strict orders to hold out until someone came to relieve me. I had several belts of cartridges and some grenades. They were shelling me with a mortar. I don’t know how I managed to stick it. With my machine gun I killed sixteen of the enemy. I watched them go down like ninepins and was full of disgust and horror for what I was doing. In spite of Yvonne, at moments I wished I could be killed myself so as not to have to carry on the butchery…
They told me I was a fine soldier, but I couldn’t get over it. The war filled me with such horror that if any chap had dared to tell me I was a hero I’d have cracked his jaw.
It’s not uncommon to arrive at the truth by a wrong path. Prophets and simple souls who accurately deduce the future from facts they interpret in the wrong way.
Love and politics are the most dangerous things for the mind because they constantly place a man in a situation where he is obliged to talk nonsense.
The slope down to hell is so gentle, so imperceptible that one fails to appreciate one is going downhill. Hell nearly always begins in a familiar guise and the Devil first appears to us as the image of our own face oin the mirror.
[Y]ou can put up a better defense than most people, because by constantly reading and rereading good authors who write well and have a healthy outlook, you absorb large quantities of antidote to the poison of modern stupidity.
We are never so happy as when men give us reasons for liking them. At least, that is how it is with me. The spectacle of noble deeds gladdens my heart like beautiful music. It is as if my soul had left my body and was deliriously riding astride the melody being played.
This, in my humble opinion, is one of the missions of the poet: to grasp the truth of beings who lie to themselves, to be always a few years older than they or, if you prefer, to live in the future, observe them with the eyes they will themselves have when they have have a little longer.