Home > Uncategorized > Pär Lagerkvist: If such a thing as war can end

Pär Lagerkvist: If such a thing as war can end

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

Pär Lagerkvist
From The Death of Ahasuerus (1960)
Translated by Naomi Walford

“I’d left the others and was roving on my own…yes, I was a soldier; there was war, of course, there always was…”

“The war went on for many years…She lived in the midst of brutality, whoring and drunkenness there in the baggage-train, among those lecherous women whom the army dragged with it until they became so worn out, used up and ill that they straggled behind or were chased away, while in their place others were sucked in on the march through that ravaged, plundered country…”

“Then the war came to an end at last – if such a thing as war can end. We soldiers were disbanded – ‘sent home,’ as they called it, although we had no homes and turned bandit instead…”

“Disgust and loathing I felt too for the life itself – this life of rough soldiering and banditry – this criminal life that seemed to fill the world, to lay waste the world, expose it to senseless devastation; to shame, misery and despair. The criminal life I had led so long – I and all these others. Why was I in it, why was I just like all the others? How could I endure it, stoop to it? What sort of life was it? How could I go on? I became more and more revolted by this existence, my own shameless existence, and by myself.”

“The region I was walking in was deserted. That I’d already seen, but now I saw how deserted it really was, and in what way. It was no wilderness, but cultivated land; yet the fields lay untended; they could not have been tilled for a very long time, for they were full of saplings and bushes and here and there half-grown trees; the forest had broken into those fields again and won them back. Not a soul was to be seen anywhere, not any trace of one. It was forsaken.

“It came as no surprise, for many places were in the same state. For years war had rolled its devastation over this land, and was no doubt the cause of its neglect. And perhaps there were no folk left to cultivate it. After the war, plague had spread more swiftly than before, and claimed many more victims than the war itself; whole tracts of country were quite depopulated, and lay abandoned and desolate…”

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