Saturday, September 08, 2012

Put Out More Flags by Evelyn Waugh (Penguin Modern Classics 1942)

They went out, later, when the packing was done, into the blackout to a bar. Other friends came to join them.

"No one seems interested in my scheme to annex Liberia."

"No imagination. They won't take suggestions from outsiders. You know, Sonia, this war is developing into a kind of club enclosure on a race-course. If you aren't wearing the right badge they won't let you in."

"I think that's rather what Alastair felt."

"It's going to be a long war. There's plenty of time. I shall wait until there's something amusing to do."

"I don't believe it's going to be that kind of war."

This is all that anyone talks about, thought Ambrose; jobs and the kind of war it is going to be. War in the air, war of attrition, tank war, war of nerves, war of propaganda, war of defence in depth, war of movement, peoples' war, total war, indivisible war, war infinite, war incomprehensible, war of essence without accidents or attributes, metaphysical war, war in time-space, war eternal...all war is nonsense, thought Ambrose. I don't care about their war. It's got nothing to do with me. But if, thought Ambrose, I were one of these people, if I were not a cosmopolitan, Jewish pansy, if I were not all that the Nazis mean when they talk about "degenerates," if I were not a single, sane individual, if I were part of a herd, one of these people, normal and responsible for the welfare of my herd, Gawd strike me pink, thought Ambrose, I wouldn't sit around discussing what kind of war it was going to be. I'd make it my kind of war. I'd set about killing and stampeding the other herd as fast and as hard as I could. Lord love a duck, thought Ambrose, there wouldn't be any animals nosing about for suitable jobs in my herd.

"Bertie's hoping to help control petrol in the Shetland Isles."

"Algernon's off to Syria on the most secret kind of mission."

"Poor John hasn't got anything yet."

Cor chase my Aunt Fanny round a mulberry bush, thought Ambrose; what a herd.

So the leaves fell and the blackout grew earlier and earlier, and autumn became winter.

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