A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

“Who goes to the attack?” asked Gavuzzi.


“All bersaglieri?”

“I think so.”

“There aren’t enough troops here for a real attack.”

“It is probably to draw attention from where the real attack will be.”

“Do the men know that who attack?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Of course they don’t,” Manera said. “They wouldn’t attack if they did.”

“Yes, they would,” Passini said. “Bersaglieri are fools.”

“They are brave and have good discipline,” I said.

“They are big through the chest by measurement, and healthy. But they are still fools.”

“The granatieri are tall,” Manera said. This was a joke. They all laughed.

“Were you there, Tenente, when they wouldn’t attack and they shot every tenth man?”


“It is true. They lined them up afterward and took every tenth man. Carabinieri shot them.”

“Carabinieri,” said Passini and spat on the floor. “But those grenadiers; all over six feet. They wouldn’t attack.”

“If everybody would not attack the war would be over,” Manera said.

“It wasn’t that way with the granatieri. They were afraid. The officers all came from such good families.”

“Some of the officers went alone.”

“A sergeant shot two officers who would not get out.”

“Some troops went out.”

“Those that went out were not lined up when they took the tenth men.”

“One of those shot by the carabinieri is from my town,” Passini said. “He was a big smart tall boy to be in the granatieri. Always in Rome. Always with the girls. Always with the carabinieri.” He laughed. “Now they have a guard outside his house with a bayonet and nobody can come to see his mother and father and sisters and his father loses his civil rights and cannot even vote. They are all without law to protect them. Anybody can take their property.”

“If it wasn’t that that happens to their families nobody would go to the attack.”

“Yes. Alpini would. These V. E. soldiers would. Some bersaglieri.”

“Bersaglieri have run too. Now they try to forget it.”

“You should not let us talk this way, Tenente. Evviva l’esercito,” Passini said sarcastically.

“I know how you talk,” I said. “But as long as you drive the cars and behave–”

“–and don’t talk so other officers can hear,” Manera finished. “I believe we should get the war over,” I said. “It would not finish it if one side stopped fighting. It would only be worse if we stopped fighting.”

“It could not be worse,” Passini said respectfully. “There is nothing worse than war.”

“Defeat is worse.”

“I do not believe it,” Passini said still respectfully. “What is defeat? You go home.”

“They come after you. They take your home. They take your sisters.”

“I don’t believe it,” Passini said. “They can’t do that to everybody. Let everybody defend his home. Let them keep their sisters in the house.”

“They hang you. They come and make you be a soldier again. Not in the auto-ambulance, in the infantry.”

“They can’t hang every one.”

“An outside nation can’t make you be a soldier,” Manera said. “At the first battle you all run.”

“Like the Tchecos.”

“I think you do not know anything about being conquered and so you think it is not bad.”

“Tenente,” Passini said. “We understand you let us talk. Listen. There is nothing as bad as war. We in the auto-ambulance cannot even realize at all how bad it is. When people realize how bad it is they cannot do anything to stop it because they go crazy. There are some people who never realize. There are people who are afraid of their officers. It is with them the war is made.”

“I know it is bad but we must finish it.”

“It doesn’t finish. There is no finish to a war.”

“Yes there is.”

Passini shook his head.

“War is not won by victory. What if we take San Gabriele? What if we take the Carso and Monfalcone and Trieste? Where are we then? Did you see all the far mountains to-day? Do you think we could take all them too? Only if the Austrians stop fighting. One side must stop fighting. Why don’t we stop fighting? If they come down into Italy they will get tired and go away. They have their own country. But no, instead there is a war.”

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Categories: Hemingway, Ernest