A Little Reminder (Eine kleine Erinnerung)


There is currently a small, very interesting, exhibition in the Paris National Library, to which even the fine people come, in their automobiles. The press has, justifiably, spoken a great deal about it, although it really isn’t very big. It contains a selection of exclusive treasures of the library: manuscripts, first editions, autographs, bindings, medals and old maps. And among these Renans, Lafontaines, Dantons, Bouchers, gold coins and leather bindings, I suddenly read in a glass case:

Censor A.O.K.4. publication allowed, A.B, followed by an indecipherable signature.

What is that? It turned out to be a reprint of a tract from the year 1661, Sermon sur l’ambition, by Bossuet[1]. There is the original manuscript, open, and there is the reprint, open at the same place, which starts with, “Cette noble idèe de puissance…” This entire section is crossed out in black in the reprint, below the comment reproduced above. This fourth volume of the works of Bossuet was reprinted in Bruges, in 1915, for which one needed the approval of the commandant of Thielt, which was responsible for Bruges. The office of the commandant had reservations about the author of 1661. What were they?

The passage is: This noble idea of power is a long way from that which the worldly powers make of it. Then just as it is human nature to be (d’estre in the original) more receptive to evil than to good, so the powerful believe that their power is better expressed in destruction than in construction. That’s why we have wars, slaughter, and the glorious expeditions of those thieves of territory whom we call Conqueror. These heroes, these victors, with all their glory, are only in the world to destroy the peace of the world with their unlimited ambition. God sent them to us in his anger. Their victories spread sorrow and despair among the widows and orphans. They rejoice in the ruin of peoples, and general destruction, and that is how they show us their power.

The army high command didn’t want this. In the end, this most dangerous section was allowed. And it had remained remarkably fresh during the 260 years.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques-B%C3%A9nigne_Bossuet

Author: Kurt Tucholsky

Published in: PantrTigerCo Tucholsky Panter, Tiger & Co.


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