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Sergei Mstislavsky: Germ warfare of the future

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

Russian writers on war

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Sergei Mstislavsky
From Rook, Herald of Spring
Translated by David Skvirsky

“In Conrad Vallenrod Mickiewicz has an introductory ballad about a Moorish Almansour, who was defeated by the Spaniards and who avenged himself by infecting their camp with cholera. It proved stronger than any other weapon.

The Spaniards fled from the mountains in fright
And hosts of them fell on the way;
The dying and the dead were a horrible sight,
As the Plague took their spirits away.

“Yes, stronger than any other weapon,” the doctor agreed. “But not against the palaces. An epidemic first of all spreads to the poorest quarters and touches those whose bodies have been weakened by continual undernourishment. Death always follows the line of least resistance.”

Bauman put his hand on the doctor’s impulsively.

“That was well put. It’s very true that death always follows the line of least resistance. But when we get the upper hand death will find his match in the human race, you can be sure.”

“You think so? Unfortunately I believe (not to say bluntly that I am sure) that you and I will yet live to see germ war on the lines of your Almansour, the only essential difference being that the future Almansours will drop retorts full of germs from the air.”

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