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Roger Nimier: Soldiers are like that


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

The last twenty years, idiots that you are, your conferences and congresses fostered the unity of world youth. Well, I hope you are satisfied. We are the ones who achieved it – one fine morning on the battlefields.

Amazed, I speculated on what lengths of imagination men must reach in order to find a reason for fighting.

I feel that war should be confined to certain definite limits. Take football, for instance; it is played on specific grounds intended for that purpose. Well, there should be special battlefields for men who like to die out of doors. Other places would be devoted to laughter and dancing.

On our way home, Pierre looks terribly glum. I knew he was fretting about the war in which his services are no longer wanted, about all those weeks spent away from the front, and about these drab, sleepy days of oblivion. How much more he would prefer to capture Berlin, after which he would derive pleasure from looking at himself in the mirror. Soldiers are like that. So long as they have not massacred one hundred thousand people, carried off the children’s milk and prohibited beauty creams, they fidget constantly, they don’t know what to do with their hands.

I don’t know yet if I am a hero, but I do know that I am now disguised as a hussar. My masquerade has become easier to credit since the offensive began a few days ago. The big guns firing, the shells shrieking through the air and the armored cars going up in flames soon convince you that you are a real soldier.

Anyhow we walked briskly forward, each in his ditch alongside the road, bending down to brush off the brambles that tangled with our tunics. I do not relish this type of stroll very much. It is dangerous, it is dirty, there are no spectators and, all said and done, it serves no useful purpose. Nobody can ever convince me that civilization was at stake because on March 13, 1945 I happened to be clomping about in a ditch beside a road which was decidedly unhealthy.

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