Saturday, July 17, 2010

Part 2, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez . 1918, 471pages

Ibanez sees the French as honorable, brave and courageous. On the other hand, the Germans are barbarians capable of indescribable atrocity. Ibanez devotes considerable ink describing the ruthless, murderous, plundering, violent Germans while finding the French devoted defenders of all that is good. He barley mentions, and then with derision, the English and the Americans are invisible. Probably in anger for entering the war so late and with frustration that Americans saved France after they were completely defeated. Ibanez’s story of the war is often fantasy describing the rout of the Germans by French bravery and tactics. In reality, in the spring of 1917 after suffering 1 million casualties, almost half of the French army mutinies, leaves the line and is marching away. The Germans do not realize the opportunity and take no advantage. They could have left the trenches and defeated France but the German generals did not believe their intelligence. In another embarrassment to the French, the Australian army came to the defense of Paris as the German advance came in 75 miles of the city. The Australians are not mentioned; instead, it is the French army driving back the Germans. Maybe Oliver Stone took lessons from Ibanez.
Let me quote some passages were Ibanez describes the Germans. One of the Germans tells of
”one of the personages most admired by him was a certain Sultan of the Turkish conquest who, with his own hands, had strangled the sons of the adversary. “Our foes do not come into the world on horseback and brandishing the lance,” said that hero. “All are born as children, and it is advisable to wipe them from the face of the earth before they grow up”.

I understand the Palestinians felt the same way leading them to attack Kibbutz and women and children through bombing and terror attacks. They fell it was easier to kill their enemies as children rather than wait until they were capable of defending themselves.
Another quote to describe what the Germans were doing:
“They don’t understand what modern warfare means. They ignore the fact that our generals have studied the art of overcoming the enemy and they will apply it mercilessly. Ruthlessness is the only means, since it perturbs the intelligence of the enemy, paralyzes his action and pulverizes his resistance. The more ferocious the war, the more quickly it is concluded. To punish with cruelty is to proceed humanely. Therefore, Germany is going to be cruel with a cruelty hitherto unseen, in order that the conflict may not be prolonged. “
“True kindness consists in being cruel, because then the terror-stricken enemy gives in sooner, and so the world suffers less” Don Marcel shrugged his shoulder before the sophistry.

In the end of the book, after all the tragedies had play out Ibanez describes the mental state of the lead character:
“It appeared to him (Desnoyers) that from afar was echoing the gallop of the four Apocalyptic horsemen, riding rough-shod over all his fellow-creatures. He saw the strong and brutal giant with the sword of War, the archer with his repulsive smile, shooting his pestilential arrows, the bald-headed miser with the scales of Famine, their hard-riding spectre with the scythe of Death. He recognized them as only divinities, familiar and terrible-which had made their presence felt by mankind. All the rest was a dream. The four housemen were the reality.”

As the book ends, the horrors of war, the evils of humanity and the lack of fairness and justice in the world darken the mood as black as the first 1/3 of the story was a story of the happy family. Certainly, this is another book, which should be read and considered somewhere in the library of classics.

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