#AMREADING NEMIROVSKY, THE FIRES OF AUTUMN.
The setting: France during WWI.
Soldiers in the trenches. He had been prepared to die a heroic death, but soon the idea of death terrified him…as he looked at the little blackish heaps lying between two trenches, dead bodies as numerous and insignificant as dead flies in the first cold snap of winter.
Returning soldiers: All they wanted to do was eat as much as possible, get drunk, go wild…The beast would be released, the beast you had carried within yourself and kept under control for four long years.
A woman in the post-war years:
Marriage: Mediocre marriages are based on partial confidences, she thinks: one of you lets slip a confession, a sigh; a fragment of some dream or desire is shared, but then fear sets in; it is retracted…but it is too late. The other has seen your tears, a certain smile, an expression that is hard to forget.
The superiority of men. I have to give in, she thought. After all, men are stronger, more intelligent than we are. If he thinks that this is what love is, nothing more than sleeping around, he must be right. I can’t stand up to him, I can’t. I couldn’t prove to him that he’s wrong.
Married love. His boredom, a kind of gloomy inertia of the soul, had set in very soon after they were married…He doesn’t love me any more, she thought, but when reality is too bitter, we reject it; the heart protects itself against the truth and tirelessly invent its own dreams. It will all pass, she told herself.
Despair. We don’t give in easily to despair. We put up barriers of hope, which we have to remove one by one, and only then does despair penetrate to the heart of man who gradually recognizes the enemy, calls it by name, and is horrified.
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