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Hans Habe: Hiroshima-born realization of man’s destructibility by man

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

Hans Habe: Constituent battles of the Third World War. You can’t pick your battlefields once war is in progress.

Hans Habe: John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered

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Hans Habe
From The Poisoned Stream
Translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn

I have a pronounced aversion to soldiers, past, present, and future. Sometimes it works the other way round: if I take a dislike to someone he usually turns out to be an ex-hero. Films show you villainous Fascists and Nazis, but honest-to-God soldiers abound on both sides. Unfortunately, it was honest-to-God soldiers who put Resistance fighters up against the wall in Rome, Venice, and Intra.

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Is there really a resemblance between our own age and some epoch in the past? I can hardly believe it. There can’t be any resemblance because we have come to an entirely new realization, the Hiroshima-born realization of man’s destructibility by man. Space-travel means nothing beside the message of Hiroshima: we knew man’s capacity for achievement, but never even suspected his capability for destruction. Hiroshima was an attempt to wrest God’s last prerogative from Him, the right of the flood….

Doesn’t the malaise we complain about so sadly spring from the impotence of our omnipotence? Can the atom bomb cause still greater havoc than it has already? Can omnipotence be abused when omnipotence itself is an abuse? Incapable of living in the shadow of destruction, we live as if we had already been destroyed….People live on one side of the chasm as if the atom bomb didn’t exist; on the other as though it had already reduced everything to ashes.

The atom bomb, which fell in the present, destroyed the only place where the past and the future might have met. One can see across a chasm – even join hands across it – but no-man’s-land is a boundless wilderness. Nobody ever sees another soul.

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