Monday, April 16, 2012

Collage 741


I live in a city destroyed by war just fourteen years before I was born. I can still find damage left by bullets and bombs fired during that final siege in 1945. My father grew up in Nazi Germany and can tell stories of seeing the huge fleets of Allied bombers flying high overhead to targets in other parts of Germany, or seeking shelter when that target was the Ruhr mining town where his family lived. His war was uneventful compared to that of my wife's father, who was 15 when he and his family fled their home in Danzig in March 1945. They were among the last German civilians to get out of the city before it was taken by the Soviet Army. 

Yet despite such direct and close links to the biggest war in history, the idea of war seems to me unreal and remote. I have had the great fortune of living in a period of relative peace. The Cold War posed a theoretical threat of complete annihilation but did not interfere with our prosperity and safety as long as no one pushed the button. Our wars -- Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan -- seem small compared to the Great Wars and hardly touch us. 

Tolstoy was born sixteen years after Borodino and the burning of Moscow. Like us, he lived in a period of relative peace, dying just a few years before the outbreak of World War One. The wars that Russia engaged in during his lifetime were regional affairs beyond the vast country's borders, far from home and not directly threatening to home and family. Living in peacetime makes it is easy to forget how common War has been to the human experience. -- Otto

Otto Mayr
from page 739-740, volume 2 of original text
made 2/1/12
Pevear/Volokhonsky translation page 1205-1206

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