Home > Uncategorized > Emmanuel Roblès: The war has changed my soul

Emmanuel Roblès: The war has changed my soul


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

French writers on war and peace

Emmanuel Roblès: Respect is first due to the living


Emmanuel Roblès
From Vesuvius 
Translated by Milton Stansbury

I remember that as a child, I used to write my stronger resolutions in a notebook: I would stop telling lies; I would endure injustice; never seek revenge. I would be austere, unsullied, my soul would attain crystal purity. Oh, Silvia, Silvia, the war has changed my soul, tarnished it and at times I felt it shuddering with hatred and disgust. I had been taught, Silvia, to respect mankind, to respect life, and I recall having felt sick with remorse at even having crushed a spider under my heel. I hadn’t been able to suppress my repulsion and was haunted by the vision of the whitish pink spot on which the long mutilated legs still moved. I was of the breed, Silvia, of men the least prepared for cruelty and violence, and I had been born into a world dominated by just that – by the passion for destruction, the will to humiliate and debase!


I lingered in the room, took a few steps forward to the altar. The tortured Christ bent his head sorrowfully on the copper cross….I did not believe in the God I saw dying there, yet I knew that everyday in this war that agony began all over again. And I thought I had suddenly discovered what Christians among themselves call charity.

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