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Roger Nimier: I saw war in its stark reality


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

French writers on war and peace

Roger Nimier: Selections on war


Roger Nimier
From The Blue Hussar
Translated by Jacques Le Clercq

As I looked down before me I saw war in its stark reality, a war usually hidden from us, with all its proud mass of pillage, rape and arson, which historians always disguise in the silks and velvets of heroic literature.


The rumble itself gradually became the core of a far vaster din which filled far reaches of the horizon as the enemy guns and our own blazed away. How very small and how inapt, a soldier lost in the great feverish grasp of war. I reflected that at last I understood war’s secret: war was a lusty whore, a pushover who kept her copulating strictly within the family. Any cavalry troop is thrown out onto a meadow to roll like dice over the green baize of a gaming table. According to the number that turns up – five killed, three killed or cock dice – you win or you don’t. You lead an existence in which all you have to know is how to fall on your face.

…a fact I perceived when I viewed the corpse of Lieutenant d’Ermal whom I was very fond of during his lifetime and whom death brought to the tyrannical proportions of one of those lithe, fair-haired youth who get killed in our wars in order to allow their wives to be unfaithful to them, short of which the poor angels would not dare to do so, but the living agreed to affirm that the dead are not sensitive….


Voluptuously I rolled the various phrases over my tongue, statements so clumsy as to seem born of a grammar specially devised for tank men, stuffed as they were with conjunctions, participles and pasty words. Of course a repetition like “Wherein, in…’ afforded me even further delights, nor did I fail to shed a few pious tears as I read the invocation of “eternal France,” for which, if we wish to grasp its full meaning, we must substitute such statements as: “eternal Honduras!” “Liberia forever,” and “Monaco, life or death!”

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