Anj — Translated – jean-paul sartre/WAR DIARY/1939

Topic(s): World War II | Comments Off on Anj — Translated – jean-paul sartre/WAR DIARY/1939

Philosophers have produced many famous autobiographies, but few have left any diaries, in their relative spontaneity and immediacy a riskier form of self-revelation than retrospective composition. The single great exception are the notebooks Jean-Paul Sartre kept for some nine months, after being called up in September 1939, running from the Phony War to the eve of the fall of France. He filled fifteen of these. Of them, only six have survived. Five, found in his papers, were published posthumously by Gallimard in 1983, and were translated into English by Verso in 1984. A sixth—by a fortunate accident chronologically the first—came to light in a cache bought by the Bibliothèque Nationale in 1991, of which we publish excerpts below. The torso that has escaped destruction, some 600 pages in all, is by any measure one of the most remarkable pieces of writing Sartre ever produced—all but unmatched in their intellectual vivacity, variety and pungency. Though not much more than a half century has elapsed since they were written, the loss of the other nine books recalls the gaps in what has come down to us of the literature of Antiquity more than any modern precedent. The notebooks range freely over philosophical, literary, historical, political and personal themes. With the recovery of the first, Sartre’s intentions become clearer. In his diary, he was developing the concepts and concerns that would form Being and Nothingness, published in 1943 after his release as a prisoner-of-war; sketching ideas that take shape in his Portrait of the Anti-Semite; and—not least—beginning to test the instruments of existential analysis that would ultimately produce his portraits of Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Genet and Flaubert. But the notebooks were not just a quarry of private reflections for future reference. Sartre, who was reading Gide’s and later Stendhal’s Journals, makes plain that he intended eventually to publish them, as a work of the same kind—though, characteristically, he showed small interest in them after the War, in the careless indifference to his own writing he records in the excerpts below. The sum of the notebooks thus becomes a wonderfully spirited, unsentimental—indeed often caustic—literary self-portrait, against the background of the opening months of the war. In the missing notebooks, we know that Sartre analysed at length his relationship with France—perhaps the most intriguing single theme in all that has been lost. But in the first notebook, we have what could be taken as the pendant to it: a scintillating description, written with a mordant lyricism, of his passionate relationship to the period that had just come to an end, the inter-war years of his prime.
jean-paul sartre
September–October 1939
Marmoutier. Thursday 14 September. [1] A curious connection between stoicism and optimism. It’s already there in the Stoic of antiquity, who needed to believe the world is good. More of a psychological device than a theoretical connection. Another ruse to tranquilize oneself, another trap of inauthenticity. I set out for the army stoically, meaning that on the one hand I blocked out everything that made up my former life, and on the other hand accepted a future in which my own possibilities would no longer exist. `Readied up’, as they call it here. I was glad to be readied up, but didn’t realize that the essence of this state implies a kind of admiring docility towards the military authorities in charge of me. By placing myself in their hands, I trusted them and ceased to be a `man against’. This obviously came from the fact that I had freely tendered my resignation. I lost my critical spirit, and surprised myself in the first few days by being disagreeably affected when officers were criticized in front of me. Certainly the famous attitude of `saying no’ already implies doubt and reservation. Acceptance, on the contrary, leads to that admiration on principle which is everything I most detest.
Too concerned with being well adapted in myself, for myself, in other words not being despairing or cowardly, I’ve not known how to choose between `saying yes’ and `saying no’, I’ve not been concerned about the objective situation. Fortunately I found myself in contact with Corporal Paul, a Socialist and thus dissatisfied and confused. Not someone who says `no’, but someone who gets mad and bitter, is sometimes afraid of the senior officers and sometimes curses them. The result is that I’ve begun to see the real situation. The pitiful transport from Ceintrey to Marmoutier also opened my eyes: the army has remained in war what it was in peace. Acceptance, then, should be dissociated from admiration. That is now done. What remains is to see the objective situation.
I have not seen the war, which seems impossible to grasp, but I have seen the world of the war. It’s simply the militarized world. The meaning of things has changed. An inn is still there, it’s still decked out and welcoming, but its welcome is empty; in other words this possibility self-destructs and becomes absurd. An inn welcomes people in exchange for money and evokes a bourgeois freedom, the freedom of money. But the world of war is a world without money and without freedom. This inn has been requisitioned by the Administration. Soldiers are staying in it, they don’t pay and they don’t stay there freely. For anyone who reads the word `Commissariat’ written on its front door, the inn evokes a new meaning: that of gratuitous compulsion. At the same time it has become a pure implement—in other words, whatever former luxury the object possessed, it has now been made to serve solely as a necessity. The pretty room designed to charm the traveller is simply a den for the soldiers occupying it. They sleep there, but on straw. The bed is removed or not touched. And so, long before a bomb destroys the man-made object, the human meaning of the object is already destroyed. In wartime we wander through an implement-world. Exactly as in the barracks. It’s just that, since the pretty charms of things remain, the result is at each moment a kind of evanescent appeal of a world that has disappeared, a continual illusion.
Objects are not the same distance away in war as they are in peacetime. I felt this the other day at Arzwiller: there was a forest of oak trees on red rock some fifty metres from the road. We had lain down on the edge of the road, crushed by our rifles, our backpacks, our greatcoats, like upside-down mayflies. I would have liked—not to go into the wood, but to think that I could do so. But it was impossible to think such a thing, it lay outside my possibilities. Fifty metres was enough to put a place out of reach. It was nothing but scenery. And so for me Marmoutier does not have surroundings, since I cannot get out of the town. This world of war has its heavy, serious roads, and then its scenery. By having ceased to be within my possibilities, these remote places lose their reality. The fellows here translate this by saying of a pleasant landscape or an agreeable village: `I’ll come back when it’s peacetime.’
War is a form of socialism. It reduces man’s individual property to nothing, and replaces it with collective property. My clothing, my bedding and my food no longer belong to me; I don’t have a home any more. Everything I use belongs to the collective. And I cannot form an attachment to it precisely because it is the collective, as such, it is impersonal. For me, it is true, going off to war does not involve a suppression of my individual belongings, since I’ve never had any. I don’t have a house, or furniture, or books, or knick-knacks. I eat in restaurants, I have clothes—just what is strictly necessary. But the war has lumbered me with a heap of implements that belong to the collective and which I just use—helmet, mask, belt, boots, rifle, etc. Here I am in socialism, whether I like it or not. And cured of socialism, if I needed to cure myself of it.
All these implement-objects refer to a primary meaning. In peacetime just as in war, a hammer is to strike in a nail, a nail is to hold down a roof, etc. But in peace, the final meaning is always the same: the protection of human life. The final meaning of these implements in wartime is destruction. This is clear enough for guns and rifles. But in the world of war, what is striking is that all these objects whose purpose was to protect people are still there, intact, yet their final meaning now is destruction. This inn, this hammer, this nail, this roof still serve to protect, but such protection is no longer the ultimate purpose. Protection itself is only for the sake of destruction. All this is not a logical argument, it’s something that is felt on the objects, and is again one of the causes of the essential ambiguity of objects in wartime: objects of luxury that become pure implements while keeping their luxury aspect, objects of protection that continue to protect while acquiring a sinister and secret sense of destruction.
Saturday 16th. To rely on other people. I think I can say that this has never happened to me before; I would have been horrified. And now here I am calmly wondering whether Saarbrücken has been taken. Which means: I hope the High Command will have had the intelligence, and the front-line troops the courage, to take Saarbrücken. We are not far away from the idiocies of the rear: the old lady counting on `our brave little soldiers’ and rejoicing to know that she’s defended.
From time to time I feel released from the care of bothering myself about other people (Wanda—Bianca) [2] as I’ve decided that I’m the one that is the most bothered (paying in my person), although nothing is less certain. And yet this is the secret of my present calmness.
What has most strongly influenced my present attitude (although I’ve forgotten it recently and replaced it with a kind of rather stupid vulgarization: to put up with the war as I would cholera) is a phrase of Guille’s: `Lots of people during the 1914 war were solely concerned to conduct themselves like men.’ This formula satisfied me in so far as it replaced collective slogans with an obligation towards oneself. But Guille is a humanist, and applied to me the phrase loses its sense. [3] It is certainly at the root of the thought I had on setting out, and which I still have: that the war would be an adventure to complete my destiny. `I’ll have known madness, passion, art and war,’ I thought, in a rather puerile fashion. Noble experiences, or supposedly so. At other times I conceived of war as the essential test of a man’s life, which I had to pass. Afterwards, if I managed to get through it: serenity. As always, the origin of this notion was my preconceived idea of the lives of great men, which included, as I saw it, a period of testing. And I counted a bit on the war to make up for the ease of my first literary successes, which (still in this preconceived representation) seemed to me from the start somewhat dubious. At all events, there was an idea of a man’s destiny (taken from Guille’s phrase, while forcing it into my meaning) mixed with that of a great man’s destiny (patched together from old reading, i.e. not from the real lives of Stendhal or Balzac, but from the categories through which biographers see these lives). At all events, this idea of destiny is deeply anchored in me: I have a destiny. This helps me to view mystically everything that happens to me as necessary steps in a journey, which I have to turn to advantage. And though I repeat and sometimes believe that war brutalizes those involved, I can’t stop myself from seeing it as a source of experience, and thus for myself of progress. For the idea of progress, as a complement to the idea of destiny, is also essential for me. It’s what the Beaver calls my optimism.
Sunday 17th. Russia invades Poland. I learn this at five o’clock from Paul who also brings letters (the Beaver, Wanda). Real anxiety. I can accept the war only if I think we’ll win. I realize how stupidly I persuaded myself that it would be over in a year, and without any changes. My past life is stuck to me like a scab. I only accepted leaving it without regret through the hope that I would find it again, just as it was. Wanda’s letter has unfrozen me. But I still think she won’t wait for me right the way through. I shall be calm, however, if I can get her to go to Paris. [4] I prefer her unfaithful than unhappy. In sum, a day of emotions. It’s a long time since this has happened to me. To be precise, since last Monday, when I felt grim. The Beaver’s letters are overwhelming. I have the impression that it’s I who is in the better position. I reproach myself for not being able to suffer with her and for her. Every carefree moment feels as though it’s been stolen from her. I shall never again think that I have got it so bad that I needn’t concern myself with others.
Monday 18th. The mobilization posters are so old now that the wind and rain have torn them to shreds, and their drenched and yellowed fragments are floating in the village streams.
No weather balloons today. My three acolytes are bored. Pieter: `God, what can I do?’ and Keller, sitting beside me, hands on his thighs and elbows out: `How bloody boring it is here.’ A mild feeling of superiority, as I’m not bored at all. Also a sense of superiority over Gerassi, [5] who, according to what the Beaver tells me, sees himself as a hero because he’s going to start painting again. In short, a self-satisfaction that is not very agreeable.
Though I’m rather untidy personally, since mobilization I wash, shave, and brush my teeth scrupulously. This is in imitation of Stendhal, who shaved each day during the retreat from Moscow. My good will is great, but surreptitiously it latches on to models.
Started Gide’s Journals. [6] >From August 1914. Comforting reading, in short. At first I’m overwhelmed, I read from August to September, September to October. So many days, each lived one at a time. I read his days of war through my days of war. And suddenly my number of days is up, and Gide still has four and a half years of war to live through. It’s devastating. But little by little, communion with a spirit from `my party’ gives me back a kind of intellectual lightness that I had completely lost since 1st September. And then always this reassuring scam: by identifying my war with his, as several episodes and reflections invite me to, I turn this uncertain and unknown, inchoate future into something that has already been lived and has an after. At once, I give this enormous world of the present in which I am vegetating a horizon of `after’, and already begin to glimpse the day when it will be seen from this `post-war’ point of view.
Gide’s constant efforts to take upon himself the sufferings of the war, to focus his thoughts on them. Meditations in a vacuum, moreover, and deliberately so—for it would be a sin to draw any benefit from them, even an intellectual one. A state of religious communion. It was a duty for him to keep his thought obsessed by the war. My inverse duty—and too easy—is to keep my thinking awake. To think and not to meditate. As he was a civilian, he had the duty of communing with others. In my military uniform, I have a duty to think clearly. And permission to act alone. All very well, but how readily would I give myself that permission if I was at the front and not in Marmoutier? It’s there, moreover, that there would be merit in taking advantage of it.
The phantom war. A war à la Kafka. I don’t manage to feel it, it escapes me. The communiqués don’t mention our losses. I’ve not seen any wounded. Sergeant Naudin spoke yesterday of men gassed, but others deny this. Some patchy information. The Germans are not on our territory, no bombardments of the rear. Localized military operations on a very narrow sector. What the war brings the soldiers of Marmoutier is a greater freedom towards their officers, in other words they are more like civilians. If I am to feel the war, I have to receive letters from the Beaver. She, the Beaver, is at war, rather than me. I imagine this impression is shared by many people. Perhaps it is the result of a possible tactic on the Germans’ part: keep on the defensive in the West, finish their war in the East, and then come and offer us peace. Perhaps we shall suddenly know real war when their peace proposals have been rejected.
Greater optimism today about the Russian attitude. We’d like to hope that their entry into Poland is a precautionary measure or a tactic of blackmail against the Germans. Yesterday Corporal Paul said very decidedly: `If the Russians come into the game, we’ll no longer just have to accept any peace we can.’
Again the tribulations of a Stoic. When I left the Beaver, on 2 September, I set out for something harder and better than this calm mediocrity. Now I’m contaminated, rotten.
In sum, a specifically bourgeois attitude: I can take the war, but if I survive I want to go back to my pre-war life. Isn’t that the attitude of the Munich crowd, who could have stood war but not the death of capitalism?
Tuesday September 19th. The impression of a phantom war among others. The sergeant-major, dreamily: `It’s a funny kind of war.’ He reflects for a moment: `A political war.’
There are people who found themselves too young for one war and too old for another (1870, 1914); I was too young for the last post-war and dread being too old for the next. Reading the pages of Gide’s journal on Montherlant or Drieu, I strongly regret not having been their age in 1922. [7] And immediately the memory returns of the little bar, l’Escadrille, that sums up that whole period for me, the `post-war’ which I knew only from hearsay, and which for me is still the golden age. In 194… I shall be too old to know the headiness of change, if anything changes; not that I’ve so many years behind me, but I have a life, I’m formed. The present renunciations and all these transformations I observe in myself take place inside this life. The Beaver, Wanda, Bianca, my novel, are my cardinal points. And even if I try to prepare myself for death, it’s always within this life that I prepare. A post-war would not mean dying, i.e. vanishing like smoke in the midst of my life, leaving this life emptied of me. It would mean the contrary: I would continue to live while this life disappeared around me. At my age it is easier to accept one’s death than the annihilation of one’s life.
Stalin seems to have acted in agreement with Hitler.
Five o’clock. The radio screams in the neighbouring house, Hitler is going to speak. Writing my novel in the large classroom of the boys’ school, I hear the `Heil’ of the German crowd. The Alsatian soldiers have hurried in to hear the Führer.
This whole era of my life as a young man and adult, which I thought would also include my life as an old man—and even go further, continuing long after me—is now trapped between two wars, already historical. It has had a beginning and an end. It seemed to me an absolute, something like the air I needed in order to live. Now I have a distance from it, I assess it and am astounded by its suddenly revealed relativity: I could live without it. It has fallen away from me like an old skin. Similarly, before I spent a year in Berlin, [8] I was not able to judge Paris. Paris was the air of my time. And when I came back from Berlin, Paris was no more than one city among others. The one I preferred, of course, but which I judged from outside. The `inter-war period’ is already a thing. From this point of view, such movements as surrealism, pacifism, etc., instead of being new dawns, seem more like ideologies conditioned by their time and necessarily disappearing with it. They have lost their horizons. I imagine that, for any era, to be present means having horizons. To pass is to lose those horizons.
Wednesday September 20th. In the face of this military shambles, two conceptions of the war and the army. One, optimistic, which I tried to keep up in the first few days but which strikes me as very metaphysical: just as in physics, there would be a statistical order for large masses and an indeterminism at the molecular level. The other that I see as more true: everything is unforeseen and disordered. Victory is determined by chance. `Everything convinces me more and more,’ Gide wrote on 25 October 1916, `that these questions of strategy that are surrounded by such mystery and whose solution is claimed to require highly specialized knowledge, are matters of ordinary common sense—which a straightforward, lucid, and ready mind is often more apt to solve than a number of old generals.’ [9] No civilian undertaking, even those that fail, would put up with this kind of disorder or slackness. No administration, even the most fossilized, is poisoned by such a bureaucracy. When I want to be impartial, I tell myself that we are undoubtedly in a second-rate division, and that basically, the advance on the Saar front seems to have been conducted methodically enough. But what do we know? It’s impossible to decide on the basis of the three lines of the daily communiqué.
It’s a strange military disarray that is the opposite of anarchy and comes from the fact that orders are conveyed with total rigidity, from the higher officers to the corporals, via all the degrees of the hierarchy. The different ranks never work together: they interfere.
Gide, 1 June 1918: `I sometimes think, with horror, that the victory which all our hearts wish France to have is that of the past over the future.’ [10]
Thursday September 21st. Schadenfreude with which I greeted the disintegration of the French Communist Party. [11] Precisely because this party, without being something really good, was good enough to shame me. There was a time when I flirted with it. And another time when I frankly turned away from it, but with a certain sense of remorse. The bottom line was that I could only accept not being a Communist if I could be further left than Communism. My conversation with Bianca. She: `After all, neither you nor I have the courage to be Communists.’ That was where the shoe pinched, and I replied: `Yes, but on the other hand the pcf isn’t such that we should have that kind of courage.’ The fact remains that, however legitimate it was in my own eyes not to have had that courage, all the same I didn’t have it. And it seems to me, when I see the Party destroy and degrade itself, that the problem itself was groundless, that my courage had only ever been demanded by a semblance. But that is not true at all. Whatever the pcf has become, there was a time when I was asked to choose, and I opted against it. Besides, Communism is not Marxism.
Friday September 22nd. In the papers this morning, one of those turns of phrase the French are so good at: `At the front, strategic waiting period’. (See the expressions used in 1914, quoted by Gide: the German army absorbed by France.) On the other hand, a speech by Daladier. I didn’t hear it myself, but the secretaries all talk about it bad-temperedly. Apparently, he committed the cardinal sin of saying that the war would last a long time. `I don’t want to hear him’, one said, `every time I do, I get depressed’. And another: `He’s the original defeatist. We should throw him in prison’. They all harbour the obscure hope that the war will be over quickly. I have no such hope. I tried this morning to imagine a swift end to the war—in the way you might play with a loose tooth—but it did not excite me in the least. I hope for nothing, I expect nothing. The calm of a nightmare, with the war all around.
Saturday September 23rd. The Beaver says that I believe I am immortal. Perhaps it is partly true. I don’t envisage dying. But there is something else: I’ve always conceived my writings not as isolated productions but as organizing themselves into an œuvre. And this œuvre is contained within the limits of a human life. Better, in my distrust of old age I have always thought that the essential part would be written before I reach sixty. There was still this absurd but deep-rooted childish idea that I didn’t see myself dying before seventy. This meant an empty sleeve of existence separating the end of my life from my death. In other words, my life has an end long before I actually die, just as it had a beginning long after my birth (partly because I have little in the way of childhood memories). The result for me was a conscious existence, complete and finite, almost circular, in which expectations were exactly matched by results, while formlessness lay on either side of my real life. For the essential thing is not to be immortal. The essential thing is that life should be completed.
It was at Ceintrey, the day when Paul’s panic led me to believe that we were going up to the front the next day, that for the first time I envisaged death the way the majority of people do, as an event that soars up in the middle of life and puts a stop to it, without completing it. I explained this in chapter 13 of my novel, in relation to Lola. [12] But I felt it and accepted it, looking at the river from the Ceintrey bridge. What it meant was not the unthinkable annihilation of my consciousness, but the total meaninglessness of all my expectant waiting: looking forward to a more perfect relationship with Wanda, to writing better books, to composing an œuvre, etc. And at the same time—contrary to what Heidegger says—it did not make my consciousness more individual, but rather transformed it into a thing, since I felt that one could say: it has been.
All this is much easier to realize given that I am already `dead to my life’, since everything has been left behind. It is true that most of the time I think that my life has just been suspended. But at other moments I see it brought to a halt. In those instants I outlive my life. Death is felt and accepted in this perspective. It is only my relationship with the Beaver that escapes the absurdity of death because it is perfect, and at each moment is everything that it can be. I am not waiting for anything more from it than its indefinite continuation. To sum up, at this moment and from the perspective of immediate death, I can say that this is the only thing in my life that has succeeded. The rest is only on the way to success, to different degrees. This intuition of death was very brief and did not return. To grasp its essence, I have to believe in its threat, I have to be—rightly or wrongly—in a death-facing situation. Now all that has evaporated.
Sunday September 24th. The officer or non-commissioned officer who laughs with the men always slightly mingles an expression of laughter with one of disgust. The lips separate, but rather than stretching out completely, they droop a little in the middle. That way the laughter comes from somewhere outside him. The officer barely takes responsibility for it. But he has no illusions as to its value: the grimace of disgust is not directed towards men, its aim is to undermine the laughter.
Glassy-eyed expression: designed to annihilate the soldier being looked at, in his own eyes. He is in the officer’s field of vision, but he is not seen.
Expression of sudden deafness: it hits the officer abruptly and isolates him immediately. The moment before he had been listening to the man, now he no longer hears him. This can be combined with the glassy-eyed expression.
Tiny, seismic twitches running up through the nape of the neck to the head of the officer and non-commissioned officer, designed to imitate unshakeable conviction. Used especially when talking to a soldier while looking him in the eye. They allow the gaze (which stays fixed) to detach itself slightly from the face, which ripples like a corn field, signifying after-thought.
The voice must be veiled, distant and neutral. Always give the impression of restraint.
By taking these small precautions, a non-commissioned officer can afford to joke with his troops. And the soldiers say: he is not arrogant.
The phantom war continues. At a café a soldier shrugs his shoulders when he hears a communiqué: `They’ll never get me to believe that. Things are happening’. Me: `What things?’ Him, vague, but still through and through the type of fellow who is never fooled: `Negotiations . . . ! When I left I was told clearly: you will be mobilized for two or three months at most and then it will be over’. He adds, emphasizing the words: `And without war’. Then, worried and in a vaguely questioning tone: `All the boys agree with me’. The public has become so used to official lies that the speeches of Daladier and Chamberlain, affirming their `unwavering resolve to etc. etc.’, leave them cold. People wink and tell each other: `They’re saying that for the Americans. They’re saying it for us, etc. etc.’
Tuesday September 26th. The general state of mind: that of the spectator who, with an air of disgust, watches two boxers beating each other black and blue, muttering: `There’s something fishy going on here’. Nobody takes official government statements seriously. Perhaps they’re so used to the old slogans on the occult power of freemasonry that they consider everything visible—the forces deployed, military engagements, etc.—as a mise-en-scène, a décor that they try to see through, in order to discover the real action going on behind. A preoccupation amongst us all: not to be duped.
Wednesday September 27th. `If you make war,’ said Brice Parain, `you accept it, so you are an accomplice.’ [13] That is not quite correct. First of all, one must distinguish between making war and being in the war. If I desert, if I hide, I may perhaps avoid making war. But it is impossible to avoid being in the war. That is something I can neither accept nor refuse, as if I had the freedom to reject: it is a modification of the world and of my being-in-the-world. War is not an adventure that happens to me, with regard to which I can behave in one fashion or another. War is a way of existing for the world, and for I who am in the world; my individual fate starts from here: in other words, war doesn’t enter my fate like disease, marriage or death. On the contrary, my fate is born out of the war. It is not distinguished from others by the fact that it contains war and they do not: I am-for-war to the very extent that I am a man. There is no difference between `being-man’ and `being-in-war’. This is to say that I can no more `say no’ to the war than to the human condition. It presents itself as a modification of my being-with-others, of my being-to die, etc. There is nothing I can do about it. If I was to desert, I still couldn’t do anything.
What can be deceptive here is that men decide on the state of war. But if it is true that the state of war comes about through men, it is realized outside of them. The extreme variety of individual destinies in war entirely escapes the authors of the war. Just like the aspect of the world (of trees, the sky, houses), like the human freedom of men-in-war. For if it’s impossible for anyone to reject his being-in-war, individual difference and freedom are rediscovered even in the manner of being-for-war. Each destiny is woven with a new material which is the war, but each is different from others, differently woven. What disappeared on 3 September was not just `happiness’ and `peace’, it was a world with its sky, its seasons, its fauna and flora; a different world appeared for each individual. The first characteristic of men in war is to survive a drowned world. Men in war are survivors from peace.
The question remains: does one have to make war? The first thing I wonder is whether every individual who is freely for war does not make it. The Beaver, when she writes to me, when she takes a position towards Bost or myself, when she `refuses happiness’, as B. says, or rather when she now sees happiness, as she writes to me, as no more than a privileged manner of hanging onto the world of peace, the Beaver makes war. Anyone who does not allow themselves to be tossed around in disarray and uncertainty, but takes up war in its human reality, makes war. Even the deserter. For deserters are certainly needed in a war, they have their role to play. And the more deliberate a deserter is about his action, the more he reinforces war and his own being-for-war. Any coherent and freely agreed behaviour towards war is `making-war’. It is impossible to escape it. For the deserter in no way hopes to suppress war by his action; he limits himself to confirming it. From the moment he flees, he affirms it and is only concerned with the best way of acting towards it, i.e. of making it. From this point of view, I make war by having chosen, between desertion and submission, which best suits my individual wartime destiny. I am neither more nor less complicit with this world than is the deserter. It is just that it seemed to me that my interests and my individual goal would be better served if, being in war despite myself, I obeyed the mobilization order.
What I have just said, badly and at too great length, is that war is not simply the object of my thoughts, it is also their material. Through what I perceive, this table or this pipe, I think of war; the manner in which I think and perceive this table and this pipe is `of war’—finally, the fashion in which this table and this pipe present themselves to me is one of war. And this is not just a matter of clear judgements and comprehensions: my pre-ontological comprehension, my most immediate being in relation to my most immediate possibilities, are of war. And yet I have a horror of war, but this horror about an existing war is itself a being-for-war, it is invested by war, it is an immobile and fixed state that in no way aims at rejecting war but simply at apprehending it; and it is on this basis of horror that my present calm, happiness and joy develops.
Sunday 1st October. Hitler and Stalin’s `Peace Offensive’ provokes some confusion. The majority of the soldiers I saw this morning wanted us to accept the offer. Some did so grumbling: `You’ll see, in two years it will start all over again!’ Others were hopeful: `If they offer something good . . .’
The husband of our landlady, a sapper, arrived `direct’ on his scooter. He is at the border, by a riverbank, with the Germans on the other side. They talk to each other from one bank to the other. He spoke to some German officers who told him: `Hitler really messed up’. No gunshots; niceties, pleasantries. They received orders to blow up the bridges. So, on the appointed day, they stuff the arches full of dynamite, move back a kilometre and a half, and the bridge explodes. The following day they return to their first camp and find the German officers, who say to them, aghast: `But what are you doing?’
Monday October 2nd. My mind is empty. Or rather, it is filled with lots of inconsequential daily activities. My novel—like a bureaucrat’s task, patient and humdrum. Gide. Letters. No ideas, nor even an attempt to consider things closely. It’s perhaps today that the war has seemed most natural to me: I was inside it and not surprised to be so. It’s undoubtedly this lack of surprise that has blocked my thoughts. Nevertheless, a certain appetite to write in this notebook has stayed with me all day. I even bought two more notebooks of the same kind. But it was a scribbler’s or collector’s appetite. I had a puerile desire to possess four or five full notebooks, just as in my childhood I had wanted the whole collection of Buffalo Bill’s adventures. Also, I was naively seduced by the thickness of Gide’s diary. I wanted my own `War Diary’ to be just as thick. Because, naturally, I plan to publish it. Though to be honest, I remain quite undecided. For a start, I write openly about B. and Wanda; I can not imagine, as a result, that these notes could appear in their current form as long as my `civil’ life is what it is. Furthermore, they are very badly written. From time to time I take care to `turn’ a phrase, and at other times they fall flat. If I was going to deliver my diary up to the public, it would have to be corrected. But wouldn’t this be a form of trickery? Isn’t improving the syntax a betrayal of the very spirit of the diary?
In any case, the circumstances of this war and my posting force me to talk here solely of myself. All I know about this war I learn by hearsay. Seen from the outside, this notebook is a diary of nothing. A man alone, separated from those closest to him, spends totally empty days in a little Alsace town. He has no idea when this exile will come to an end. There is obviously no subject there for any edifying reflections. If I were on the Maginot Line, things would be very different. I therefore see very little possibility of publishing them—for now, since things can change at any moment—unless one is interested in me, rather than the war. And, for the moment, no one is interested in me. So when I imagine the publication of these notes, it is at a much later date.
These jottings are exclusively about me, yet there is nothing intimate about them, and I do not consider them as such. Everything that happens to me, that I think, I immediately envisage sharing with the Beaver; an event has hardly even happened before I start recounting it. Everything I feel, I analyse for the other at the very moment I feel it; I think immediately of how I can put it to use in some way. If I wasn’t keeping this diary, and if there was no military censorship, most of what I’ve written here would have gone into my letters—and I would have forgotten the rest straight away. I don’t know anyone who is as public as me. When I think, most of the time it is with the idea of convincing someone in particular; when I reason, it is in a rhetorical mode, to persuade or refute. It is really only my sensations and the intimate taste of my body that are intimate for me, because they are incommunicable. It doesn’t seem to me, then, that this notebook can be reproached in the way intimate diaries ordinarily are—that the author is hedging his bets between intimacy and publicity (intimate, as intimate as possible, but in order for everything then to be brought to light). Whatever the fate of these notes, whether they are published or not, I wrote them in a public spirit—and first of all, to show them to the Beaver.
I must also recognize that they are of no help to me. My thoughts should become clearer under my pen, but for the fifteen years I have been thinking, I have organized myself without recourse to a notebook. I think and express within myself, and remember without writing. So, most of the time, everything that I write down has already been thought and formulated in my head.
Besides, there is another ambiguity here as regards the intimate diary: must one think while writing, or write what one has thought? Thinking while writing, in other words clarifying and developing a theme, pen in hand: one risks forcing oneself, one becomes insincere. Writing what one has thought: then it is no longer an intimate diary, it no longer has that organic je ne sais quoi that constitutes intimacy. To be honest, I can see only two uses for these notebooks: as mementos; or as presenting, next to the ideas, the history of those ideas.
Let’s be fair: there is something else. These notes correspond to a preoccupation that came to me around July last year, which was the following: to treat myself—not out of any interest in myself, but because I am my immediate object—successively and simultaneously using various of the latest methods of investigation: psychoanalysis, phenomenological psychology, Marxist or marxisant sociology, in order to see what can be gained concretely from these methods. This at a time when I had made significant discoveries regarding my own pride. I was tempted to apply these methods to my being-in-war. But I see I have moved far from this plan. Tomorrow I will try to clarify my situation in relation to the war, in other words, the way I should envisage it starting from my civilian life.
Tuesday October 3rd. I am going to try to determine what influences have predisposed me to take my present attitude towards the war.
First of all, war formed part of my memories of childhood. In this respect, it seems bound up with the family. I saw it from and through my family, it struck me first of all as a family event. All the same, I did not experience it directly, as many people did: no one in my family went off to the front. My uncles were too old, my stepfather too sickly, and we did not have a lot of friends who went, because our circle was mainly made up of university professors of my grandfather’s age. And then, having left for the provinces at the end of 1916, I didn’t see wartime Paris, the alerts, bombing by the Tauben and `Big Bertha’. Finally, far from the war having deprived me of my father and left me to my own resources, like so many others, it gave me a father, as it was in March or April 1915 that my mother re-married. [14] Was there any identification between the `seriousness’ of the war and the `seriousness’ of my stepfather? The war always seemed to me like a darkening in the air of the time, a heavy and icy shadow, above all boring—terribly boring—that descended upon things. I don’t know that my schoolmates and I spoke very much of the events.
I had a certain comic talent for mimicking the noble emotions that my grandfather, an actor himself, displayed. In Arcachon, in August 1914, I was proud of the suppleness with which I cut a path through the crowd to obtain the first of those mimeographed pages that were sold under the name of `communiqués’. I am reconstructing a bit, but it seems to me that I believed that in this way I was performing my duty as a Frenchman and helping the poilus. A little later, in Paris, I wrote in a little leather-bound book that Mme Picard [15] had given me, in which one was supposed to set down one’s likes and dislikes, that my dearest desire was `to be a soldier and avenge the dead’. I remember the scene with some shame: it was in Rue Le Goff, in the living-room-cum-study. Mme Picard had just brought me the book, and it was polite to fill in the questionnaire in her presence. I sat down at my grandfather’s desk (I still see the writing pad, the green blotter stained with red ink), and I wrote while `the ladies’ were chatting, conscious of my duty, certain that I was going to be read and girding myself up for noble sentiments. When I had written my response, the ladies were ecstatic and I went from one to the other to receive congratulations and kisses. [16]
I also wrote, around the same time, a war novel in which the hero succeeded in taking the German Crown Prince prisoner, and giving him a beating in the midst of a circle of poilus. Finally, at Noirétable, I performed in a little heroic play composed by my grandfather in a charity performance to benefit the poilus; I was a young Alsatian pursued by the `Boches’ in his village, who ended up united with his father, a French soldier who belonged to a chasseur detachment and took back possession of the invaded village. I stretched out my arm at the moment of pathos, saying `Farewell, farewell our dear Alsace’ with so successful an air of melancholy that Monsieur Simon, the warden of Reims Cathedral, `drew’ me. My mother still has this watercolour.
The sixième class adopted a poilu and I was appointed treasurer. They handed me five-centime pieces that I put in a piggy-bank. One day the `protégé’ came to visit my grandfather. He was tall, with a moustache, shy and sad. I imagine that I spoke nicely to him and everyone was pleased. The class, however, for reasons I have forgotten, lost interest in its protégé towards the end of the year. A little money remained in the money-box, which I kept for myself. Thus it seems my first contact with war was purely heroic; I neither saw nor felt anything real, I let myself be clothed in conventional ready-made sentiments that I quickly cast off. At bottom, I didn’t give a damn. And the underlying reason for all these comedies is that I was living with grown-ups and adapted myself to their games.
What was genuine in me at this time was a very particular and localized boredom: I loved reading the weekly stories by Arnould Galopin and others about young boys’ adventures and their travels around the world. After the declaration of war in 1914, some of these publications disappeared (in particular, Buffalo Bill and Nick Carter, whose publisher was German), and the rest were now filled with the exploits of young Belgians or French from the Nord. These stories bored me beyond belief. Above all, I think, on account of their monotony; it was always a question of battles between Germans and French. All the exoticism that made the Tour du monde en aéroplane so poetic (India, the jungle, the Congo, the Andean cordillera) had disappeared: the multicoloured pictures of savages were replaced by the feldgrau uniform of the Germans, the scenery was unchangingly the muddy and fissured countryside of the Nord. These young heroes, too weak to capture Germans by themselves, were always reduced sooner or later to appealing to a French captain or senior officer. All these bien-pensant values, though I adopted them when I was in the company of grown-ups, bored me terribly without my admitting it. I believe that this was the starting-point of my disgust with war. For reading, at this time, was my dearest and most important activity. I spent almost the whole day reading. The proliferation of war stories offended me deeply, and if I made a start at writing a war novel myself, I imagine this was by way of an infuriated imitation, as when you end up using an expression that grates on you in someone else’s mouth.
When we moved to La Rochelle, I underwent a big change in my moral ideas. To begin with, I came under the authority of my stepfather, whose morals had scarcely anything in common with those of my grandfather; and then I formed far more important relationships with boys my own age. Up till then such connections had been pursued under the benevolent protection of my parents. They were now directed against my parents. And what playmates: cynical, brutal, hoodlums, preoccupied above all with sexuality. I remember how one day we took Madame Picard’s questionnaire-notebook and covered it with jokes and insults. I adopted the cynicism of my friends so they would see me in a good light, in the same way that I had previously adopted the lofty sentiments of my family. I grew increasingly distant from the `state of war’, which only my stepfather was charged with embodying for me. This identification of the war with my stepfather was enough to make it definitively morose, boring and gloomy. The armistice caused me neither surprise nor delight. Sexual questions absorbed me far more at the time. On 11 November, while the 75 guns were firing on the beach, Pelletier initiated me on the ramparts into games beyond innocence. [17] Remorse preoccupied me far more than the Peace in 1919.
We had to undergo several years of official speeches on our glorious dead and the duties incumbent on us. It became a cliché. We greeted these noble sentiments with disgust, having all been complicit with them at a certain point in time—myself, for example, in 1914–15. And since it was usually our teachers who undertook these sermons, for us they seemed in part the official exaltation of Graeco-Roman morality, in part the counsels of virtue our parents gave us. By 1920 I could imagine nothing more dead and embalmed than what the war represented for me.
To sum up, war for me had long been nothing more than a bouquet of grown-ups’ values. It was confused with `duty’ and `fatherland’, words we abused around 1919–21, and under this aspect it became unreal. I refused to read Barbusse’s Under Fire, [18] even though it dealt with this subject from a completely different point of view; it was contaminated. I didn’t read Wooden Crosses by Dorgelès, and couldn’t finish All Quiet on the Western Front. [19] I found it all insurmountably boring; as soon as I tried to cross the barrier of virtues I’d erected in front of the facts, I discovered those realities that I’ve always disliked: discipline, organized formations, and the muddy plains of the Nord. In short, the same reaction to war literature as to the children’s books of 1914–18.
My first reaction against `the war’ was thus indistinguishable from my reaction against grown-ups’ morality. It had nothing in common with the horror of those who had actually experienced the smallest episodes of it. And as those grown-ups who spoke about the war were, essentially, those who had fought in it, I very quickly acquired a horror of ex-soldiers. They irritated me because they claimed to have rights over me. It was a combination of boredom, duties, pretentious and oratorical virtues that I wanted to shake off. To escape from the war was to escape from this false virtue, exactly as one escapes from religion when one loses one’s faith.
Around 1924 I became an anti-militarist. The influence of friends (Broussaudier, Guille, who said at the time: `I’d rather be shot than join up’). [20] An essential book was Mars ou la guerre jugée. [21] This anti-militarism was never constructive, any more than my horror of war was a form of pacifism. I never envisaged getting involved in any kind of action for disarmament, or of making actual gestures of commitment (refusal of military service on grounds of conscientious objection, etc.). I repeated pacifist arguments like the rest: `Nothing that victory can give is worth a human life’—or again: `Suppose the Germans invaded. And what then?’ but without much believing in them. Many of my friends were horrified at the idea of killing, but when they were not there, Nizan and I said to each other that our repugnance was not at killing but at being killed. In fact, what I learned in pms and later in military service was how man is degraded by the Army. [22] That was sincerely felt, and when I was at the Fort de Saint-Cyr it plunged me into despair. I did my military service in as negative a spirit as I could. And because of this, it has remained the saddest period of my life.
This increasingly led me to consider war from a moral point of view, and in this way to concern myself more with my personal attitude towards war and in a war. I no more thought about agitating against a possible war than I did about deserting. When Guille or Broussaudier envisaged desertion as a possible option I always answered, rather uncomfortably: `I’m an auxiliary. So I’ve got a very good chance of getting through ok. Whereas if I desert, my whole life would be screwed up.’ I thus retreated to stoicism as the sole possible moral attitude and, to the extent that war lay within the horizon of my possibilities, latent stoicism in case of war was a constant virtual possibility of my being. For a long time I dressed this as Alain’s `refusal’. To be stoical and say no. But of course, when I projected this saying no into the future, it was the war of 1914 that I was saying no to. No to the reign of virtue, to brainwashing and degradation.
Naturally too, I was persuaded of the idea, born from examination of the `great’ war, that there is no such thing as a defensive war, because no single party is ever uniquely responsible—and this made rejection an easy option. At the same time, the state of destitution of Germany between 1924 and 1930, hardly frightening, encouraged me to believe that in a war France would be the aggressor. So it was all the easier to refuse, since to accept would mean complicity with aggression. But I never connected war with capitalist imperialism, first of all from distrust of Marxist constructions, then because I was under the influence of Alain, who saw war as passion rather than a play of interests. So I viewed it as a passing madness against which I would gird myself when it actually broke out, and not as the necessary culmination of a political and social evolution which I should try at every point to stop. This suited me all the better, because—for other reasons—I’d never wanted to get involved in politics, and have never voted. So a negative attitude all along the line.
I come to the year 38–39. At the time of the Anschluss and in May 38 (German pressure on Czechoslovakia), I was afraid. The reality of war was still veiled for me. I saw in it only a rupture in my life, a break in my writings and above all the bombing of Paris. I remember how in May I went for a walk across Paris with the Beaver, and sensed in all these smart buildings their skeletons of iron and wood, imagining twisted metal and charred beams. From that time, Paris has always struck me as `fragile’, especially after September, and I have gradually grown detached from it, beginning to love it in a disinterested fashion. Then came September. Worry in Rabat and Casablanca. Ominous wait at Marseille. [23] It was in Martigues that I seriously envisaged being wounded; we were sitting on the bank of a canal; the boats’ sirens echoed disagreeably in our ears, it was drizzling. We discussed whether it was better to return home blinded or facially disfigured. From that moment on, up till August 1939, I lived in what we called an imaginary belief in war. In other words our projects, our imaginations, everything was organized in terms of war but deep down we were not committed, or only in imagination.
Returning to Paris, I found myself between the pro-Munich and anti-Munich crowds, and I must confess here that I never had the intellectual courage to be either one or the other. The pro-Munich types disgusted me because they were all bourgeois and cowards, fearful for their own skins, their capital or their capitalism. But the anti-Munich crowd struck me as terrifying, as they wanted war. I was not yet sufficiently accustomed to this idea of war to understand that one could want it. The problem for me had always been: can one put up with it, or should one reject it with all one’s might (to the point of desertion or being shot). If I opted for stoical resignation, at least I would keep a sense of remorse. Besides, the situation remained unclear: after all, the Sudeten Germans were Germans and wanted to return to Germany; after all, the Czechs had not been faithful to their word; [24] after all, we were not ready.
And yet it was around this time that the state of war established itself in me in a lasting fashion. In September, alone with C. X., [25] then afterwards with the Beaver, I grasped the reality of war and my freedom in face of it; I will explain what this was elsewhere. In any case, a slow process was under way in me, which made me sense my consciousness as being all the more free and absolute, the more my life became committed, contingent and enslaved; to the point of finally showing me my present life, to which I was so attached, which I had taken as my very being, as one experience among others—supported, maintained and superseded by my consciousness. During that year, there were numerous times when the perspective of war made us `existential’, the Beaver and me; especially one evening in March, after the annexation of the Czech republic, in the little restaurant on the Place des Victoires. Reading Heidegger, which I had started to do, greatly inclined me in this direction. At Easter, after the Italian invasion of Albania, one evening when we were coming down the mountain towards Nice, I understood, felt, and explained to the Beaver the primitive situation of being-in-war, almost unthinkable in its complexity: it was necessary to realize simultaneously 1) that one does not know what will become of oneself in the world (injury or death—or simply brutalization); 2) that one does not know what will become of the world around one (defeat—appearance of a new ideology—social upheavals). But since, in the end, change implies that something remains, and in this case the self and the world risk changing simultaneously, each in its own fashion, it is not possible to conceive this total and irrational mobility.
With the result that war, which I initially experienced as the mythical reign of conservative virtues, and then, in the course of my readings, as an inhuman and terrorized quaking of the guts, as something that was too hard for man and consequently diminished him, became on the contrary an anxiety that was very beneficial, by which one might better understand one’s being-in-the-world. All my thoughts of this year, my triple life, my strange lightness and happiness, were governed by the war. It suddenly revealed itself as a modality of being-in-the-world, perhaps the most propitious one for feeling and understanding this. As was natural, I made a few timid efforts to accept it as a future event, contingent and provoked by human decisions, since it was so advantageous for me as a general situation of human reality. For example I explained to the Beaver that this war would not be, as in 1914, an idle war for which all the powers were responsible, but that this time there would really be something to defend, in other words my freedom as a writer against Nazi ideology. To which the Beaver replied: `In your case, possibly. But what does the Cévennes shepherd have to defend? And can you accept this war for him?’ Which was irrefutable.
These attempts, at bottom, were only designed to rid myself of my stoical refusal à la Chartier, because this refusal no longer seemed motivated by historical circumstances, yet it prevented me from living and understanding war as authenticity. Finally, to reject war is all very well, but it means falling into it with your eyes closed. Alain speaks in Mars of the military system, but not of war. So I found myself at a crossroads, between the stoical refusal that all my moral notions had taught me to desire, and authenticity—and I sought to rid myself of one for the benefit of the other. I believe I am beginning to understand now: the nature of war is to be hateful, and the men who unleash it are criminals. Besides, it is a historical accident, a contingency that is always avoidable. But once this contingency has happened, it becomes a privileged point of view for man to realize and understand his being-in-the-world (because this being-in-the-world comes in danger). Better still, it is man’s being-in-the-world, it is human reality itself seen under the angle of fragility, of absurdity and despair, but, by that very token, put in relief. It is necessary therefore to live war without refusal, which does not mean that one does not hate it, since its nature is to be hateful. It has to be lived in this hatefulness, and with authenticity. In sum, the change in my views is this: I took war to be an inhuman disorder which cast itself on man; I now see that it is a hateful situation but an ordained and human situation, that it is one of the modes of man’s being-in-the-world.
Ittenheim. Wednesday, 4th October 39. At six thirty in the evening we meet in the church square, with the clerical assistants. We wait for the truck that is supposed to drive us to Ittenheim. No truck. There’s a coach parked in the square, but it is reserved for officers. A lieutenant passes. `Are you expecting a truck?’ He laughs, so absurd does this idea seem to him. `Well, if it hasn’t arrived by ten to seven you would do just as well to go to the south exit of Marmoutier, where you’ll be sent on to Ittenheim on foot’. He leaves. Consternation amongst the clerical assistants and orderlies. Fury from Paul: `They have to take us there by truck, I’m not moving from here’. Despondency from Pieter: `I have a hernia, I can’t walk 20 kilometres’. I was sick of them, all the more so for seeing long lines of chasseur infantrymen setting off in the half-light, having already done 35 kilometres of forced march during the day, and who would perfectly well manage the entire journey on foot. We were quite heavily laden, but I felt a certain joy at the prospect of the effort that lay ahead. This strange obligation: to make as much as possible of things, so as to feel the war as much as possible. Always slowed down, naturally, by my acolytes (you might think them the Assistant in Kafka’s Castle) and perhaps happy to be slowed down.
Lieutenants Munot and Pénateau arrive, along with Captain Munier. We debate with the lieutenants, who send Corporal Courcy to see the Colonel. Meanwhile, Captain Munier says, sympathetically: `You should just get into the officers’ coach’. So, we get in from the rear, into a dark car, and pile into the back. Next to us, an ironic, cultivated voice: `Hoho! Someone’s got the wrong address, I think’. It’s a short, moustached lieutenant whose iron-rimmed glasses and piggish face I see later, by the light of an electric lamp. He’s with two other lieutenants who mutter away, scandalized. One of them puts on an ironic concern: `Unless we’re the ones who have the wrong address?’ Then a hard voice: `This is the officer’s car, isn’t it?’ Pieter explains to them that Captain Munier told us to get in. `Captain who?’, asks a myopic voice, `Munier? Prunier? Oh yes, I see . . .’ They resign themselves bitterly to our presence and one says to the rest, `have you brought your masks at least?’ Then: `given we allow men (emphasized with an aristocratic disgust) to enter this car, I don’t see why our orderlies shouldn’t be allowed in too.’
At this point a captain enters, `there’s the nice profile of Biener’, he says, laughing to one of the lieutenants. `Captain’, Pieter exclaims, always obsequious (even though he moans about the officers), `there are places free at the front’. The captain, gruff but kindly: `At the front? Why the front?’ `We went to the back so as not to bother you’, Pieter explains. The captain, energetically: `We are not at the Comédie Française here, there are neither stalls nor gallery.’ Stiff laughter from the three lieutenants. Then Lieutenant Z appears, looking more and more like a fairy: `Friends, there are spaces in the ID car’. Sighs of relief from the three lieutenants, who rush towards the exit in a panic, fleeing from the men. I can certify that we did not smell. It made me think of those rich Americans who abandoned an entire New York avenue because a black family had settled in one of the apartment buildings. Pieter, beside himself with indignation: `Really! What a bunch! I wanted to tell them: Lieutenant, in civilian life we may smell better than you.’ He goes right to the back to spread himself out. I sit with my back to the driver, my feet on the folding seat opposite me. A long wait, then the coach drives off into the dark, bouncing along very slowly. Joy. We slowly overtake line after line of black shadows, the chasseurs. Here and there the red light of a cigarette; on the road behind us I see the blue headlights of seven or eight cars in single file. Lots of stops. During one of these, the headlights of one car beam onto the mica of the rear window the flickering shadow of a man walking; he gets bigger and bigger, becoming enormous.
At 9 o’clock we arrive in Ittenheim. We are billeted, along with three orderlies, in a barn loft, full of hay and with two big beds. We take the beds—two in each. Broken window-panes. A dog barks. The road is buzzing with the sounds of troops on the march, orders being shouted, laughter. From time to time a headlight, suddenly turned on, splashes across our window. Paul jumps up next to me, Pieter coughs, snuffles, clears his throat. Three or four times soldiers come in, turn on their pocket torch or shine its light on us, demanding we make space for them. We drive them away. Joy always tinged with this slightly ominous melancholy that accompanies every military move into lodgings. Everything is always so cold, so sad; will we be able to find querencias the next morning? [26] But delight in the change of scenery. I sleep well.
Thursday 5th. On the radio at the Hôtel du Boeuf d’Or, music from Snow White. Crackling, interference. But when the tune I know (and consider dull and banal) comes through, it is like a glow in my night, a promise that all this will come to an end and I will become human again. It lasted all of fifteen beats, then it was over.
Friday 6th October. I’m getting used to this notebook. In the first few days I wrote with gloves on.
Warrant-officer Courteaux, a slender good-looking lad with a severe face. As frightening as a praying mantis, since you can read in his features that he never reflects on himself. His views: `All those who left for this war in the hope of coming back are not real men.’ (But in front of me he said: `I want to go to the front line, I’ll come back; I slip through the bullets.’) Another remark, when he went past a dead horse, which upset him: `What a shame! It tears your heart. Men can be replaced, there are as many as you like. But a horse costs five thousand francs.’ And along with this, sensitive and nervous as a woman. Worried about his relationships with other officers: ready for `bother’ at their least change of mood. Delicate health, always in a big muffler.
A trick foiled: if I lament the war, all this period-of-mobilization is lost. The only way of avoiding this intolerable (to me) thought of lost time is to see the war as a