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Romain Rolland: Mobilization of all the forces in the world for peace

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

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

French writers on war and peace

Romain Rolland: Selections on war

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Romain Rolland
Translated by R. A. Francis

From a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 1936

It is entrusted to me to ask you as well as Gandhi to join a Universal Assembly for Peace which we are convening towards the end of this summer, probably in September at Geneva. It will be a vast and powerful Congress, a sort of mobilisation of all the forces in the world for peace. A number of great national and international organizations and personalities from France, England, United States, Czechoslovakia, Spain, Belgium, Holland and many other countries have already joined (in England Lord Robert Cecil, Major Attlee, Norman Angell, Philip Noel Baker, Alexander and Professor Laski; in France Herriot, Pierre Cot, Jouhaux, Cadrin, Racamond, Professor Langevin, etc.; in Czechoslovakia Benes, Hodza; in Spain Azana, Alvarez del Vago, etc.; in Belgium Louis de Brouckere, Henri Lafontaine, etc.). It will be a question of organizing, simultaneously on a national and international level, resistance against the catastrophic menace of a universal conflagration. Would you please talk about this to our friends in India, while conveying to them my cordial salutations? Their reply as well as yours can be sent either to me or to the head-office of the “World Committee for the Struggle against War and Fascism”, of which I was made Honorary President (237 rue Lafayette, Paris X).

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From An Expression of Gratitude to Gandhi from a Man of the West (1939)

He appeared in the eyes of Europe at an hour when such an example seemed almost miraculous. Europe had scarcely emerged from four years of savage warfare, whose ravages, ruins and rancours were living on and breeding the germs of new wars yet more implacable.

But if his Word of wisdom and love, like that of the Master of the Sermon on the Mount, has touched the hearts of thousands of good people, it did not fall to them – any more than it was granted to the Master of Nazareth – to change the course of a world which has devoted itself to war and destruction. In order to be applied in politics, the doctrine of non-violence needs a moral climate very different from that which prevails in Europe today: it demands a total self-sacrifice, immense and unanimous, which has no chance of present success in face of the growing ferocity of the new regimes of totalitarian dictatorship which have established themselves in the world and proved themselves pitilessly in the blood of millions of men.

May the spirit of Gandhi, as of old that of the great founders of the Christian orders, St. Bruno, St. Bernard and St. Francis, maintain, amidst the furious torments of the age of crisis and transformation through which mankind is passing, the Civitas Dei, the love of humanity and of harmony!

For the rest of us, intellectuals, scientists, writers and artists, we who also work, as much as our feeble forces will allow, to prepare for the spirit this City of all men in which reigns the peace of God, we who are the third order (in the language of the Church) and who belong to the Pan-Humanist brotherhood, -we send our fervent tribute of love and veneration to Gandhi our master and brother, who in his heart and in his action realizes our ideal of the humanity to come.

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Gandhi’s Statement on Romain Rolland’s Death (1945)

Having been once bitten, I am too shy to believe in Romain Rolland’s reported death. But it seems that this report is true. And yet for me as for many millions, Romain Rolland is not dead. He truly lives through his famous writings and perhaps more so through his many and nameless deeds. He lived for truth and non-violence as he saw and believed them from time to time. He responded to all sufferings. He revolted against the wanton human butchery called ‘War’.

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From Le Voyage Interieur

It was not only my cosmic dreams which I sought to nourish at the springs of clairvoyant India; I also bore thither my European concerns, the spectre of war, which had already ravaged the fields of the West and was still prowling round the charnel-house. I knew only too well that the Furies were still lurking behind the tombstones from which the red smoke of blood was still rising. And I was anxious to erect in their path, as at the conclusion of Aeschylus’ trilogy, a barrier built of sovereign reason which might bring the conflict to an end. This could hardly be expected of the victorious imperialisms of the West, intent on enjoying the spoils and gorged to stupefaction, who were neglecting even the most elementary precautions to keep what they held. I thought I had found the answer in the revelation brought to me in 1922 by Gandhi, the little Indian St. Francis. Did he bear, in the folds of his homespun robe, in his Ahimsa, the heroic Non-violence which resists and does not flee, the key to our liberation from future massacres? I so needed to believe it that for several years I did believe it passionately, and I generously worked to spread this faith. I was certain – and I retract nothing – that in this alone could be found the salvation of our world laden with crimes, past, present and future. But to make this possible the world had to will it, and first of all it had to find the strength for it; for such a faith demanded the consenting self-sacrifice of a people of heroes, and the post-war climate was not of a kind to encourage such a breed in the West…

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From Introduction to Young India

I wanted to destroy a misunderstanding which would confine Gandhi within a nerveless pacifism. If Christ was the Prince of Peace, Gandhi is no less worthy of this noble title. But the peace which both of them bring to men is not the peace of passive acceptance, but the peace of active love and self-sacrifice…

A few weeks ago, after long debates about the Amnesty in the French Parliament, the public authorities, faced with little resistance from an opposition mediocre both in number and in quality, refused to include Conscientious Objectors in the proffered pardon – establishing as terms of their amnesty that it should apply only to those who fought.

Our politicians are wearing blinkers. They do not suspect that there is more than one battle going on in the modern world; and the most heroic is no longer the one being fought at the front by the national armies.

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From The Christ of India

He [Gandhi] has come at the world’s darkest hour, at which the principles supporting Western civilization have been undermined. The tottering European world is abandoning itself to primitive and violent instincts of the most bestial kind, served by all the means of destruction which a highly refined science can offer. On the morrow of a terrible four-year war, and on the eve, not just of one war, but of ten related wars which will not leave a single neutral state in safety – between these suspended menaces, as between the parted waves of a Red Sea on the point of engulfing mankind as they close – there sits the frail sage of India…

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