Of Dogs and Men (Von Hunden und Menschen)

Joseph Roth

In the last few days, a new image has been added to the multitude of street scenes of Viennese war suffering: a man who has been bent into a right-angle by the war, an invalid with a broken spine, moves almost inexplicably along the Kärntnerstraße, selling newspapers.

On his broken back, which is horizontal to the pavement, sits – a dog. A well-trained, intelligent dog, which rides on its master to make sure that no one steals his newspapers. A modern fairy-tale creature: a combination of dog and man, conceived by the war, and deposited in the world of the Kärntnerstraße by the miserable fate of invalids. A sign of the new times in which dogs ride on men to protect them from men. A recollection of the great times in which men were trained like dogs, and were referred to by the happy combination of terms, »Schweinehund[P1] e«, »Sch…hund[P2] e«, etc. by bloodhounds[P3]  who could not be referred to as such. A consequence of the patriotism which makes the erect  image of God depend on four-legged creatures who didn’t satisfy the spiritual requirements to be heroes or cannon fodder, and at best were allowed to perform menial medical services. A Kaiser Karl campaign medal dangles from the chest of the invalid. A tag hangs from the collar of the dog. The one with the campaign medal is a victim. The one with the tag has a job to do. He guards the suffering of the invalid. He protects him from harm. The fatherland and his fellow citizens could only do him harm. It’s because of them that he has to be guarded by him. Oh, what a symbol of the times! There used to be sheepdogs who guarded flocks of sheep, and guard dogs who guarded houses. Now there are person dogs who have to protect invalids, person dogs as a result of the dog men. This image strikes me like a vision: a dog sits on a man. The man is happy to be dependent on this dog, because he can remember what it was like to be dependent on the others. Is there anything sadder than this spectacle, which seems to be a symbol of humanity? The war profiteers stroll around telepathically, and in their midst, a mounted dog! Inferiority of the human race, superiority of the beasts. We’ve really come a long way in this war, in which the cavalry was abolished so that dogs could mount men!

 [P1]Literally ‘pig dog’, a common German term of abuse

‘ [P2]Shit dog’, a vulgar intensification of Schweinehund

 [P3]NCOs in military basic training

Published in:

RothReportagen Roth Reportagen

Der_Neue_Tag Der Neue Tag

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