Home > Uncategorized > Claude Tellier: At first sight you may think our enemies are men. You can tell them from human beings by the color of their uniforms.

Claude Tellier: At first sight you may think our enemies are men. You can tell them from human beings by the color of their uniforms.


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

French writers on war and peace

Claude Tellier: The king who drags his people to those vast slaughter-houses known as battle-fields is a murderer.


Claude Tellier
From My Uncle Benjamin
Translated by Marie Lorenz

“They take a man in the heydey of youth, put a gun in his hands and a knapsack on his back, stick a cockade on his cap and say to him: ‘My brother of Prussia has wronged me. You are to attack all his subjects. I have warned them by my process server, whom I call a herald, that on the first of April next you will have the honour to present yourself at the frontier to cut their throats and they should be ready to welcome you properly. Between monarchs these are considerations that one owes the other. At first sight you may think our enemies are men. I warn you, they are Prussians. You can tell them from human beings by the colour of their uniforms. Try to do your duty well, for I shall be there sitting on my throne watching you. If bring back victory when you return to France, you will be led beneath the windows of my palace. I will appear in full uniform and say: ‘ Soldiers, I am satisfied with you.’ If you are one hundred thousand men, you will have a hundred-thousandth of these six words for your share. In case you should remain on the battlefield, which may very well happen, I will send your family the death certificate, so that they may mourn you, and that brothers may inherit your property. If you lose an arm or a leg, I will pay you what they are worth, but if you have the good or the ill fortune, whichever you may think it, to escape the bullet, and you no longer have the strength to carry your knapsack, I will dismiss you, and you can go die where you like. I have no further interest in the matter.“

“Exactly,” said the sergeant. ” When they have extracted the phosphorus of which they make their glory from our blood they throw us aside the way the wine-grower throws the grape skin on the muck heap, after he has pressed out the juice, or the way a child throws the pit of the fruit he has just eaten into the gutter. “

“…This is no laughing matter. Really, when I see these valiant soldiers, whose blood has made the glory of their country, obliged to spend the rest of their life in a cobbler’s hole of a workshop…while a multitude of gilded puppets snatch up all the taxes, and prostitutes have cashmere for their morning wrappers, a single one of which is worth the entire wardrobe of a poor housewife, I am furious at kings. If I were God, I would make them wear a uniform of lead, and condemn them to a thousand years of military service in the moon, with all their iniquities in their knapsacks. I’d make the emperors be corporals.”

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