Adonis Diaries

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Part 5. “Voyage to the end of the night” By Ferdinand Celine

NoteFerdinand Celine volunteered in WWI, was seriously injured in the first year.  Many authors vouched that this book was the most truthful in describing wars , the soldiers, the military, and its calamities, with direct, ironic writing, and new words and vocabulary that obfuscated the military and brought the ire of many “patriotic” people in France

Here are a few collection of statements and opinions by Celine:

Bravery is suspicious in wartime as well as in peacetime. Is a maggot brave? Rosy, pale, and soft: Similar to mankind, the maggot.

The war has lasted over a month by now. We were so tired and miserable that we lost a little of the fear on the roads.

We have been tortured by the top officers and by the subordinates, a condition that removed the last shred of hesitation to continue surviving. All that I wanted was to sleep, anywhere, anytime…

It required many cruel situations for our brain to allow one thought to make a complete rotation, paying quick visits to the convoluted crevices in the brain.

I never ceased wondering if the officers lacked battlefield maps and cards, would they be that pressured to send hundreds to their deadly fate?

It was the end of a dry summer, and villages were burning. Little villages on little hills, which we couldn’t locate in daytime, were fantastic apparition at night, burning down all night-long. Within a month, all villages were torched to the ground, churches, barns, trees…

Civilians had a one-way exit from the region, and the heavy artillery used the exclusive opposite direction. Even the General had to sleep in the open air, and morale sank to its lowest level, and the army began executing those too tired soldiers in order to “elevate” the morale of the remaining hopeless souls…

We advanced north, while the cold followed in our steps.

We were supposed to be searching for the Germans, and as we stumbled on a few of them haphazardly, we made a long detour to side-step them, the further away from the Germans the more secure the search and reconnaissance mission…

Squad leader Bardamu (the author) was ordered by Captain Orlotan to search for the remaining German soldiers lost in the region. Orlotan was on cocaine and seemed indefatigable, sending troops to certain death. Orlotan collaborated with death under contract, and he could barely walk: He broke so many bones in horse riding contests. On his weak legs and walking stooped, Orlotan resembled the ghost of the rear part of his horse…

The best guide to finding our ways was the odor of shit, of every conceivable living organism…The only exit for the crazed cats, from the constant bombardment, was to run and get drowned in any poodle of water…

You are hit, and still you keep picking up old sandals found on the road. The sheep is badly wounded, and resumes grazing, more and more grazing until it dies.

I was not wise at all, but I finally learned to be practical and a coward: I radiated calmness, which impressed my superiors and sent me on reconnaissance missions, all by myself…These missions seemed welcomed vacations, a fictitious deliverance…

After the war ended, everyone wanted to display his uniform, including the nurses, except the neutral and spies: Two buttocks in the same pant. The ridicule of this mass massacre was dawning on everyone. It was hard feeling proud, returning from the front, and naturally engaging in more murders as a reaction of our deep shame…

The old General had two grown up girls, and unmarried. It was because of this recollection that he got this habit of growing older than normal and constantly grumbling.  The binoculars hanged to his neck as the cow bell. He couldn’t suffer to be bothered, like an old dog who can’t wait to crawl between the pillows inside his basket.

Nothing like Generals to love roses..

I wished to be made prisoner. But how to go about it? You have an enemy, from the farthest part, deep in Europe and who hate you for obscure reasons, and what could I say to him as introduction in the split-second before he fires on me? Like: “what job you practiced before the war? Are you married with children?…”

I entered a village. It was empty. I owned the entire village, its moon, and a humongous fear…




March 2023

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