Quotes on Communism from Lartéguy’s The Centurions

“All these termites looked indistinguishable, and their faces betrayed no expression of any sort, not even one of those primitive feelings that sometimes disrupt the inscrutability of Asiatic features: fear, contentment, hate or anger. Nothing. The same sense of urgency impelled them towards a common but mysterious goal which lay beyond the present fighting. This hive of sexless insects seemed to operate by remote control, as though somewhere in the depths of this enclosed world there was a monstrous queen, a kind of central brain which acted as the collective consciousness of the territories.” (20)

“In China the only form of self-indulgence left was the synthetic breeding of sexless ants in chemically pure surroundings.” (103)

He [Boisfeuras] had a vague notion that he was being made to suffer to atone for his grandfather’s looting. When he realized this, he felt furious at the thought of being so deeply affectd by the Christian or Communist sense of sin—an original sin with the Christians, a class sin with the Communists.”

No virtue without grace: “He had already become a true Communist and he felt that outside the Party there could be neither hope nor heroism.” (117)

Marindelle: “The Vietminh have been hardened, changed by seven years of fighting. … They have created a human type which is repeated indefinitely and cast in the same mould. For example, every year, in every Vietminh division, at the end of the rainy season a recollection is held. … [A recollection] is a favourite term of the Jesuits. Nothing resembles the Vietminh world as closely as the Jesuits.” (135)

Marindelle: “The Viets remind me of those grinds at school, those bookworms who by dint of sheer hard work and perseverance carry of all the prizes at the end of the term. And yet they’re the least gifted.” (137)

Esclavier’s thoughts about Souen and Communism: “It would be difficult to establish Communism completely as long as men and women still existed, with their instincts and their passions, their beauty and their youth. In the old days the Chinese used to bind their women’s feet to make them smaller; that was the fashion; it must have had some religious or erotic significance. Now, in the name of Communism, they bound the whole human frame, they frustrated and distorted it.

            That might also be nothing but a fashion. Souen had discovered love and kicked everything else overboard, recovering at the same time her freedom of action and speech. A fashion! To kill thousands of creatures in the name of a fashion! To disrupt their lives and habits until one day someone would speak up and declare Communism was out of fashion!” (181)

Some dumb cabby to Boisfeuras: “Personally, mind you, I respect everyone’s opinion—but Indo-China, we couldn’t very well hang on to it since the people who lived out there wanted to see the last of us.” (211)

Boisfeuras reflecting: “The finest role is always that of the rebel; books, films and men of goodwill are always on his side. But defending rubble is an ungrateful and demeaning pastime. What passed through the minds of the Roman centurions who were left behind in Africa and who, with a few veterans, a few barbarian auxiliaries ever ready to turn traitor, tried to maintain the outposts of the Empire while the people back in Rome were sinking into Christianity, and the Caesars into debauchery?” (219-220)

Servitude and Freedom. Esclavier knows what he needs: “But Raspeguy was back now, and he felt like a greyhound having his collar put on again. He realized with rage in his heart that he also needed a leash and a whip; he only fought well when he was chained up and it was Raspeguy who held the chain. Free of all fetters, living in featherbed surroundings ever since his return from Indo-China, he was frightened of becoming in a few months as flabby as Wiehl and the intellectuals of his circle. He welcomed and feared Raspeguy’s return, for he felt at one and the same time the need to obey him and the urge to bite him.” (314)

Us and Them in the 10th Parachute Regiment under Raspeguy. (339)

“The centurion Philippe Esclavier of the 10th Parachute Regiment tried to think why he, too, had lit bonfires in order to contain the barbarians and save the West. ‘We centurions,’ he reflected, ‘are the last defenders of man’s innocence against all those who want to enslave it in the name of original sin, against the Communists who refuse to have their children Christened, never accept the conversion of an adult and are always ready to question it, but also against certain Christians who only think of faults and forget about redemption.’” (393)

Esclavier’s hatred for the defeatist liberals: “But Philippe felt hatred and disgust welling up against the people back in Paris who were rejoicing in advance at their defeat, all those sons of Masoch who were already getting pleasure out of it.” (394)

Boisfeuras: “The unloved is a culprit, don’t forget.” Describing the weird origins of the parachute.

Esclavier doesn’t like Algeria: “I’m a child of the Mediterranean. I love the sun, indolence, idle chatter and well-upholstered girls. I’ve a certain taste for jurisprudence and rhetoric, for café-life and the Republic, law schooling and great principles. I’m certainly descended from the garrulous and demagogic Greeks and the high functionaries of Rome, but I don’t like Algiers.” (402)

Isabelle to Esclavier: “It would be mad, unjust, unthinkable to drive us out of this territory which we were first to cultivate since the Romans, out of these houses which we have built…” (434)

Amar (Communist): “[The old world is doomed.] Why are you fighting to preserve it?”

Yves: “To give the lie to History. History is on the side of the Nationalists, as it’s on the side of the Communists. Anyone who tries to turn man into a submissive robot is traveling with the flow of History. What I’m fighting against in Algeria is this mechanization of man.” (472)

Yves Marindelle: “It’s always a mere handful of men who account for the masses, and nothing great, alas, has ever emerged from peace, neither a nation—as Amar has just pointed out—nor a great work. Peace has always been the reign of mediocrities, and pacifism the bleating of a herd of sheep which allow themselves to be led to the slaughterhouse without defending themselves.” (474)

Suez Crisis: “The whole world rose up against France and England, the Russians and Americans alike, because in Egypt, you tried to play a game that is no longer in current usage. You’ve been allowed to play that game again in Algeria, but it won’t last much longer.” (475)

“Marindelle had opened the window and was taking deep breaths of the cool night air. He knew it had come to this, that this was the ghastly law of the new type of war. But he had to get accustomed to it, to harden himself and shed all those deeply ingrained, out-of-date notions which make for the greatness of Western man but at the same time prevent him from protecting himself.” (490)

“In the eyes of this émigré Frenchman [Boisfeuras], Algeria was the ball and chain which kept France fettered to her role of a great power and obliged her to behave with more nobility and generosity than a nation of complacent bourgeois shopkeepers like Switzerland.” (494)

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