Home > Uncategorized > Lajos Zilahy: Called, not without justice, the Third World War

Lajos Zilahy: Called, not without justice, the Third World War


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

Lajos Zilahy: The greatest efforts were concentrated on the greatest of human problems: how to kill.


Lajos Zilahy
From Century in Scarlet

It was de la Tour du Pin, one of Talleyrand’s secretaries, who called the Napoleonic wars, not without justice, the Third World War. The first occurred in the fourth century B.C., when another Alexander (the Great) conquered the then-known world. The second was fought nearly a millennium later, when Attila, king of the Huns, lost the bloodiest battle of history on the wide Catalonian plain. Here the united Western armies beat the hordes of barbaric tribes from Asia.


Alexander approached the ring of spectators. Beyond them the skeleton of a horse lay in the high grass. Its bare ribs already bleached, it was getting a final polish from millions of ants – an undulating black veil on the naked bones. Near the horse lay the skeleton of a man. The ants, streaming from the eye-sockets, resembled a shower of black tears. If the soldier had died possessed of a musket or a pistol, it had been removed….The dead soldier was one of the less fortunate of Napoleon’s 600,000 who, two years before, had slogged dejectedly through the cruel Russian winter.

“It seems,” continued Metternich, “that the figure fourteen plays a mysterious and providential role in the counting of years. We are now in 1814, and no one can doubt that the opening of the Congress of Vienna is the birthday of the nineteenth century. If this newborn century will live its allotted span our great grandchildren will carry its tombstone into the cemetery of history in the year 1914. But we cannot see into the future. The tombstone of a century is extremely heavy and it may slip from the hands of its carriers, especially if they are drunk, as we have seen in the case of Bonaparte….”

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