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Today's quote:

Sunday, November 6, 2022

If the war goes on ...

Read the book online at www.archive.org


The title for this book, one of Hermann Hesse's least known pieces of writing, comes from two short pieces, one written late in 1917 called "If the war goes on another two years", and one dated early in 1918 called "If the war goes on another five years". They are time-travel short stories.

In the first, Hesse goes away on an astral trip for two years, and comes back to find the war still running. Now nothing matters but the war, which has mutated into random mass bombing from balloons. (Seems like a premonition of the vast destruction of German and Japanese cities, not to mention Stalingrad, from the air In WWII.)

In the story, the author goes for a walk and is arrested because he doesn't have an official permit to take a walk. He enters a Kafka-esque world (think "The Trial" or "The Castle") of incomprehensible bureaucracy, finding he is in breach of multiple regulations, worst of all he doesn't have a legal permit to exist ... Finally he is sent to the top official, who explains that all the regulations have a reason: they are to preserve and safeguard the war.

'Yes,' I said slowly, 'you've got something there. The war, in other words, is a treasure that must be preserved at any cost.' But why? The official explains again: 'Only one answer is possible: the war is all we have left!'

War is a treasure, all we have left - and anyone outside its logic is a bizarre exception - still? There might be something in it. Given all those war movies and airport thrillers (not spy stories so much as secret-police stories), our mass media full of combat-style sports, the breathless reports by correspondents from the latest front, the gun lobby and the international arms trade. Not to mention the actual fighting. There seems to be a case that the war did, indeed, go on ...

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