Learning from War (Der Krieg als Erzieher)


We were told moving stories of the purifying effects of war, particularly in its early days. It was claimed that it stimulates everything noble and extinguishes everything base in the human spirit. Now, after more than four years of blows, thrusts and shots, we can begin to draw a fairly accurate moral balance of the war. It is a terrible deficit. It turns out that war punishes virtue and rewards vice, that it blesses the bad and curses the good, that under its auspices the good do badly and the bad do well, that it reduces the finest instincts of the human heart to absurdity, and leads its basest to success. It turns out that war is God’s enemy. For example:

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The water carriers (Wasserträgerinnen)


Twenty years ago, I spent a few twilit days in a mountain village in central Italy – I will only mention its noble name to myself. It is a narrow village with dark alleys and a lot of wine bars, on whose ceilings sausages and horse cheeses hang, all mixed up. In front of the village gate there is a spring to which the girls came in the evening to get water.

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The Hidden Poet (Der Verkleidete Dichter)

Egon Friedell

People are strange. They run around lost and confused, looking for art and poets. They want to heighten their lives, have the meaning of the times explained to them, and experience beauty. They leaf through old books, but they talk to people who have been empty shells for ages. They look, worried and stressed, for a new light on the horizon. There is none to be seen, because the horizon is the wrong place to look for it. It must shine among them, next to them, inside them. But they never look there. They think that a poet must arise like a distant, blinding sun, in ostentatious blood-red colours. But poets are not ostentatious.

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Correspondence with Gottfried Benn (Briefwechsel mit Gottfried Benn)


Dear Herr Dr. Gottfried Benn,

you received a letter from an exiled writer, from ‘near Marseilles’, and replied to it in the newspapers and radio. You quote, above all, and repeatedly, from the letter, that for its author you, Herr Dr. Benn, are the very epitome of the highest standards, and a no less than fanatical purity. Now, letters to artists sometimes contain somewhat exaggerated compliments, of which no tasteful recipient would boast, but you needed such praise to legitimate yourself to a new audience and defend yourself against your old one. However, even your repeated reproduction of the declaration of your fanatical purity does not conceal the fact that you quote another sentence of the letter, according to which your admirer told you that the emigrants are living in the minor resorts in the French Mediterranean coast and in the hotels of Zurich, Prague and Paris, incorrectly.

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