Home > Uncategorized > Jean-Paul Clébert: Concrete monsters. Had war devastated everything and there was no one left alive?

Jean-Paul Clébert: Concrete monsters. Had war devastated everything and there was no one left alive?


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

French writers on war and peace


Jean-Paul Clébert
From The Blockhouse
Translated by Jonathan Griffin

To begin with, what was there, really, above that roof? Above, that was, that mass of concrete and earth? Rouquet found it difficult to reconstitute visually the countryside they had passed through during the bombardment. It was so far away. Above the cliffs the plateau was practically deserted for quite a distance. It was edged with thickets and the rooftops of farms. The ground was pitted, and covered with thick, though sunbaked grass. There were sudden hollows, invaded by brambles. Very long, tangled brambles several yards wide and high. Rouquet could feel between his teeth a memory of the tiny grains of blackberries. There was barbed wire mingled with the brambles. Up above an inaccessibly blue sky, and beyond the horizon, below, the sea, also blue with – certainly – the white triangle of a sail. That peaceful plateau invaded by sunshine was unfortunately riddled with dirty grey concrete molehills, inhuman constructions of a kind that could easily be imagined on some other planet. What was likely to be left of these concrete monsters now. The war had long passed on. The Germans must have retired all the way through Normandy, withdrawn towards the center of France, perhaps even to their own country. Who could tell? The war was perhaps over. Peace restored, the fields up there calm and fertile. In any case, the roofs of the smashed blockhouses must be disappearing under weeds, the entrance trenches used as rubbish heaps, the stairs leading in vanishing under thick masses of brambles.

Unless the war had devastated everything and there was no one left alive? With modern weapons that was possible. The earth cleared of men, restored to its primitive wildness. In that case they would be the only survivors of the catastrophe.

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