The poor and lowly, who pay the heaviest price, since each fresh burden presses desperately on their poverty, who in their masses are killed off wholesale, true food for cannon, who suffer by far the most from the atrocious misery of war, because they are the feeblest and least resistant among us, such as these scarcely understand the meaning of our bellicose ardor, our touchy points of honor, our sacred political obligations, as they are called, which in six months can exhaust two nations, victor no less than vanquished.
Guy de Maupassant, “Old Mother Savage” (translated by Mrs. John Galsworthy)
I’m reading some stories by Guy de Maupassant and they’re all excellent but one in particular put a lump in my throat. It’s called “Mademoiselle Fifi” and it’s set during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-71), when Maupassant was about 20. He wrote it a few years later. That war actually changed Europe forever, because it prompted Prussia and various smaller German states to become a unified Germany. There is something very astute and foreshadowing in the story regarding the events that were eventually to shake Europe in the 20th Century. I don’t get the sense that Maupassant was anti-German per se, but simply that he was anti-war and anti-cruelty in any form.
You can read, online, the very edition of the story that I got from the library. The link is below this photo of the author as a young man. How often do you get to read a story with such distinguished credentials: story by Guy de Maupassant, translation by Mrs. John Galsworthy, and preface by Joseph Conrad! . . . .