Home > Uncategorized > Mikhail Artsybashev: A mother’s simple prescription against war

Mikhail Artsybashev: A mother’s simple prescription against war


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

Russian writers on peace and war

Mikhail Artsybashev: The death of a single soldier

Mikhail Artsybashev: Don’t talk to me about the beauty of war. No, no, your war is ugly.


Mikhail Artsybashev
From War
Translated by Thomas Seltzer

VLADIMIR. When there was talk of war last year, Daue was in despair. It was distressing to see him. And it wasn’t because he is a coward, but because for him to give up his violin is like giving up his life. [Musing.] But every one of us has something he holds especially dear.

There is a pause. The tuning of a violin and the sounds of a piano along with the tuning are heard coming from the house.

VLADIMIR. Yes, every one has something which he values above everything else. And yet, let war be declared, and we’d all drop what’s dearest to us and go out to kill and die. Come to think of it, it’s queer, isn’t it? But we’d do it, just the same. Yes, we’d go. And Daue would be among the first. He’d drop his violin and go with the rest.


ASYA. I didn’t mean it that way. You could have told it was coming, I suppose; you know about such things; but to me it would have been unexpected, no matter when it came. I can’t imagine how people can make up their minds to such a horror. The misery and tears it has brought into almost every home! In the whole city there isn’t one who hasn’t some relative or some dear friend to take leave of. The soldiers are so jolly, and they sing as they go. Even the officers look as though they are glad. But my heart contracts when I think of the many of them that are doomed to death and terrible agony and suffering. And yet you know, Senya, I don’t feel so sorry for those who leave for the front as for those who stay behind. Why, it’s terrible to see those you love go off to war. How many of them will never return! Yet every one of them has a mother, a wife, children. What must they be feeling now! What will they be thinking all the time! How many tears they will shed! – No; it’s terrible, terrible! It’s easier to die oneself.


OLGA. Ah, Volodya, Volodya! What is this war for? Can you tell me? What is it for? I don’t understand it. Here we were, living quietly, and all of a sudden! – I am so sorry for Nina.

Volodya takes her hand and hisses it, without replying.

OLGA. But maybe nothing will happen, after all? Eh, Volodya?

VOLODYA. How so? The war has begun already, Mamma.

OLGA. I know it has. But maybe they’ll settle it somehow over there. They’ll just take a look at each other, and they’ll say, “We are fools – that’s what we are!” Then they’ll break up and go each his own way.

VOLODYA [involuntarily smiling]. Things don’t happen that way, Mamma.

OLGA. But it’s such a pity, Volodya. It’s raining and wet outside. They might all catch cold there. God forbid! I think the best thing would be if they just dropped the whole business and went home.

VOLODYA. It’s not so simple.

OLGA. But it would be better if it were simple.

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