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Jules Romains: Dawning of new century shot with sinister streaks of 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

His earliest memory of politics was the condemnation of Captain Dreyfus. What Dreyfus was accused of was having given away to Germany the secret of certain weapons to be used in the next war. His second political memory was the Russian alliance, some journey or other of the President or the Tsar, and the joy, the sense of confidence, which had spread even into the provinces at the thought that, when the time came to fight again, France would no longer fight alone.

Then there was the Fashoda scare, with its sense of relief that this time it had nothing to do with Germany, and that the enemy had momentarily shifted position, as a headache does. Then came the truce of the Universal Exhibition, with its sounds of dancing and its rubbing of elbows by nations curious about one another, but not friendly, like holiday-makers meeting on a beach; the dawning of the twentieth century, too long awaited, jaded in advance, hectically brilliant, shot with false lights, charged from the earliest hours that followed it with sinister streaks of war.

Ten years back, indeed, not content with heralding its presence, war had started roaming around Europe, napping and snatching at loose ends here and there: the Spanish-American war, the Transvaal war, the Russo-Japanese war. Every time the lightning flashed more vividly; the thunder rolled more loudly; and even in the most peaceful cities of the West the warning wind raised dust and dead leaves.

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