From The Tribunal September 5th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

In the “Nation” of August 24th there appears a very fine study by John Galsworthy, entitled “Cafard.” With wonderful sympathy and descriptive power he depicts the feeling of a French soldier, Jean Liotard, who has been suffering from shell-shock and is due to leave the hospital and return to the front next day. The following extracts will show something of the ruthlessness and penetrating sincerity with which Mr. Galsworthy lays bare that aspect of War which our hack journalists try to hide under the tinsel of false glory:—

“He had ‘cafard’ – the little black beetle in the brain, that gnaws and eats and destroys all hope and heaven in a man. It had been working at him all week and now was at its monstrous depth of evil and despair. To begin again the cursed barrack-round, the driven life, until in a month perhaps, packed like bleating sheep, in a troop train, he made that journey once more to the fighting-line – ‘a la hachette – a la hachette!’

He had stripped off his red flannel jacket, and lay with shirt opened to the waist, to get the breeze against his heart. In his brown, good-looking face the hazel eyes, which in these God-deserted years has acquired a sort of startled gloom, stared out like a dog’s, rather prominent, seeing only the thoughts within him – thoughts and images swirling round and round on a dark whirlpool, drawing his whole being deeper and deeper . . . .

He was in the mood to curse God die; for he was devout – a Catholic, and still went to Mass. And God, it seemed, had betrayed the earth and Jean Liotard. All the enormities he had seen in his two years at the frong – the mouthless, mangled faces, the human ribs whence rats would steal; the frenzied, tortured horses, with leg or quarter rent away, still living; the rotted farms, the dazed and hopeless peasants; his innumerable suffering comrades; the desert of no-man’s land; and all the thunder and moaning of war; and the reek and freezing of war; and the driving – the callous, perpetual driving – by some Force that shovelled warm human hopes and loves by the million into the furnace; and over all, dark sky without a break, without a gleam of blue, or lift anywhere – all this enclosed him, lying in the golden hear, so that not a glimmer of life or hope could get at him. Back into it all again! Back into it, he who had been through forty times the hell that the ‘majors’ ever endured, five hundred times the hell ever glimpsed at by those who stayed at home with their slallaries, and eloquence! ‘Les journax – les journax!’ Ah, he was sick of them! Let them allow the soldiers, whose lives were spent like water – poor devils who bled, and froze and starved, and sweated – let them suffer to make the peace!