Home > Uncategorized > G. B. Stern: Conventions of war? War itself is the outrage.

G. B. Stern: Conventions of war? War itself is the outrage.


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

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war


G. B. Stern
From Children of No Man’s Land

“But people move about. Cross over. Get mixed. You cannot actually fasten down humanity as neatly as on a map; a line here, and a line there, and this side is English, and this side German. During all these years of peace, little separate individuals busily and happily intermarrying and begetting children; becoming entangled in trade and in friendship; by a million amenities of commerce and art and amusement and family, semi-obliterating the sharp boundary outlines.

“People drift about. And then a war happens. Like a ripping of canvas. No – like two lines of trenches….A scramble apart to either trench – lucky beggars who know quite distinctly where they belong. And No Man’s Land between. And some stranded in No Man’s Land….


And suddenly Richard stood still and began to laugh. And what chance of defence had a man standing beside a bursting bomb thrown by an unseen hand from fifty yards away? Little silly, fretful rules – with death and destruction and decay streaming wide over one country after another; whirring in the very air above God’s churches; throbbing in the sea under the millionaire’s pleasure-ship; each individual helplessly involved with their bodies or with their goods or with their hearts. Then, what the devil is the use of some abstract gabble about the conventions of a game?…All that was for five hundred years ago, when one soldier had it out with another soldier according to the laws of chivalry. But in this wholesale welter….All that fuss about two or three isolated lives sacrificed against the rules, as compared to the thousands according to rule; agony outside the rules, and agony according to rule. When it comes to it, what’s the difference? Ludicrous to reason in the old way – the ravings of an idiot; we have ramped so far round in the circle of civilization that we are miles behind again….

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