at Verdun, discussed by Eli Siegel
Then, we see another aspect of contempt--how a war can make for good business
prospects. Vernier explains that the area, surrounding the historic
cemetery, now has a hotel which "is equipped with the most modern conveniences.
It has an excellent jazz band, golf courses and tennis courts." There
is satire here, as Chlumberg deals with opposites in every person: nobility
and cheapness, large and small, life and death, the ordinary and the strange.
In his writing, he both informs and criticizes us. The dialog continues:
JACKSON. Wait a minute. How many
graves do you have...?
Commenting on World War I, Mr. Siegel noted,
"Americans didn't see how much Europe suffered. "Of course America
suffered somewhat herself but not the way Europe did." As the scene
goes on, contempt is building: the Americans and English have it for the
French, the French for the English and Americans--all this going on in
a cemetery with persons visiting, seemingly, to honor soldiers lost in
VERNIER. About two thousand, sir.
JACKSON. ...Well I'll be damned.
Ten thousand killed and two thousand graves--but it costs us two hundred
French francs to see them.
VERNIER. What's that, sir?..
JACKSON. [vexed] I mean
your company is damned expensive, charging so much and showing so little....
MISS GREELEY. [an English woman] ...there
was one cemetery that had twenty thousand graves of unknown German soldiers,
and they gave us lunch and dinner.... Well, that's France for you!
this exchange, Vernier explains that the French and German trenches "ran
parallel to each other and hardly more than 100 meters apart" and here
in a mass grave they "lie side by side."
[The French Tourists turn around almost
LARAT. Who the Devil sent for you?
Why don't you stay home and visit your own battlefields, if you don't
SHARPE [Englishman...with appearance of great
dignity]. These are our battlefields, gentlemen.
MARSHALL [old Englishman]. We won this
soil back for you with English and American blood--because you couldn't
do it alone....
JACKSON. Yes! If we hadn't bled
for you, you would have been lost!
FRENCH [with an angry laugh]. You--bled
for us? You---?
REMUSAT. You bled for your business!...You
entered the war after your ships were sunk, and, of course, you didn't
care about your war credits, your war profits?
MISS GREELEY [indignant]. ...Why, they
that the next day there will be ceremonies commemorating the soldiers,
and "divine services" and prayers for the dead. Government delegates
will be visiting and speeches will be given. A German tourist asked
"What do they want, for those fellows down there?...What will they ask
for, in their prayers...?
VERNIER. ...That was only in the beginning,
I believe. But then ...we lay...they lay so close together in the
same trench. They were being fired at from both sides. They
had to press close together for protection. The same shells killed
or wounded them. They had to bind one another's wounds, share their
drinking water, their provisions, their cigarettes, their gas masks....[In
the end]...Neither army wanted to leave the trench in possession of the
enemy, so they blew it to pieces from behind the lines.