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Jules Romains: Even the very word was new: war


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

French writers on war and peace

Jules Romains: Selections on war


Jules Romain
From Men of Good Will
The Sixth of October

Translated by Warre B. Wells

“Children, I have something to say to you. I don’t know whether your parents will talk about it before you. The other day we were all looking together at the map of Europe – this one….”

He picked it up from a comer of the class-room and hung it on two nails near the black-board, facing the children.

You remember: here are the Balkans – Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey, you know. Well, war is probably going to break out down there, between Bulgaria and Turkey. And all the governments in Europe are bound together in such a way, by treaties of alliance, by more or less secret agreements, by promises, that it may very well happen, if war does break out, that it will spread to the whole of Europe. That’s all. I’m not telling you this to frighten you. You’re big boys. But you ought to know. Now I’m going on with the arithmetic lesson.”

That was all Clanricard said. He had spoken in the simplest possible way, without any striving for effect. He had not intended to emphasise anything. These boys were not familiar with his ideas. He had not yet had occasion to let them sense what he thought about peace and war, about governments, about diplomacy, about the handling of human affairs.

But the emotion which had made him speak had been so intense, the little that he said struck a responsive chord in so many minds, that suddenly the boys saw war darkening the horizon like a terrible cloud, whirling and eddying in wider and wider circles like a stifling smoke. The brilliant battles about which they had been told in other classes, the pictures of victorious generals which they had seen on the covers of penny copy-books, the sounding of trumpets on the fortifications, the intoxication which they had felt when they played at war – all this phantasmagoria had disappeared. Even the very word was new: war. M. Clanricard was the first man who had ever spoken it to them. “The governments.” They saw them, too. They did not like them.

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