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Halldór Laxness: Three questions about war on earth and in heaven


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

Nobel prize in literature recipients on peace and war

Scandinavian writers on peace and war

Halldór Laxness: In war there is no cause except the cause of war. A bitter disappointment when it turned out they could defend themselves

Halldór Laxness: There are ideals in war too, slaughtering men by the million


Halldór Laxness
From Independent People
Translated by J.A. Thompson

This war began with the shooting of a scruffy little foreigner, a chap called Ferdinand or something, and the death of this Ferdinand was taken so much to heart by various ill-disposed citizens that they kept on hacking one another to pieces like suet in a trough, for four consecutive years and more….

“When ten million men murder one another in bad will,” he said, I for one don’t give a damn whether it’s from no reason at all or because of a dirty little cock-sparrow like this chap Ferdinand….Let us imagine that these ten million idiots murder one another, possibly because of a dirty little cock-sparrow, possibly for no reason at all, it’s no matter to me. Let us take it mathematically and say that five million of each are killed, for twice five are ten, as everybody knows. Suppose now that all these idiots go to heaven, for even if I believed in hell I would never wish anyone so ill as to send him there. Suppose further that they meet each other in heaven on the same day as they murdered each other on earth – it’s no matter to me whether it was out of imbecility, it doesn’t affect the question at issue, as I said before, because murder is murder as Einar of Undirhilith says. Now then, here are three questions which I ponder over night and day and which, since this seems a favourable opportunity, I intend to put to you also. In the first place, do they forgive one another in heaven for having murdered one another? it’s no matter to me whether it was out of stupidity. In the second place, do they perhaps thank one another in heaven for having murdered one another and thus helped one another on the way to heaven? Or, in the third place, do they go on fighting with undiminished imbecility in heaven, and if so for how long? And if they murder one another afresh, where do they land then? Will there eventually arrive a time when the whole universe will be too small to accommodate people who want to murder one another in stupidity, for no reason and to no purpose to the end of all eternity? I expect I’ll be pretty grey at the temples before I get an answer to that, as to so much else.”

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