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J.M.G. Le Clézio: This is what war is


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

French writers on war and peace

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war


J.M.G. Le Clézio
From War
Translated by Simon Watson Taylor

War has broken out. Where or how, nobody knows any longer. By now it is behind each person’s head, its mouth agape and panting. War of crimes and insults, of hate-filled eyes, of thoughts exploding from skulls. It is there, reared up over the world, casting its network of electric wires over the earth’s surface. Each second, as it rolls on, it uproots all things in its path, reduces them to dust. It strikes indiscriminately with its bristling array of hooks, claws, beaks. Nobody will survive unscathed. Nobody will be spared. This is what war is: the eye of truth.

During daytime it strikes with the light. And when night falls it exerts the tidal force of its darkness, its coldness, its silence.

The war is all set to last ten thousand years, to last longer than the history of mankind. There can be no escape, no compromise. In the face of war, our eyes are downcast, our bodies offered as targets for its bullets. The sharp sword seeks out breasts and hearts, even bellies, to pry and gouge. The sand is thirsty for blood. The harsh mountains are longing to open up chasms beneath the feet of voyagers. The highways desire the ceaseless mutilation and death of those who travel them. The sea feels the need to throttle and choke. And in space there is the terrible determination to tighten the vice of emptiness around the stars, to smother the shimmering of matter.

The war has whipped up its all-destructive wind. Burning gas pumps out of silencers, carbon monoxide spreads through the lungs and arteries. Mouths open wide, exhaling blue-grey smoke rings that drift up to the ceiling. Lips part, releasing strings of words, mortal words that inspire fear. That is what it is: the wind of war.

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