In the papers this morning, one of those turns of phrase the French are so good at: ‘At the front, strategic waiting period’. (See the expressions used in 1914, quoted by Gide: the German army absorbed by France.)
On the other hand, a speech by Daladier. I didn’t hear it myself, but the secretaries all talk about it bad-temperedly. Apparently, he committed the cardinal sin of saying that the war would last a long time. ‘I don’t want to hear him’, one said, ‘every time I do, I get depressed’. And another: ‘He’s the original defeatist. We should throw him in prison’. They all harbour the obscure hope that the war will be over quickly. I have no such hope. I tried this morning to imagine a swift end to the war—in the way you might play with a loose tooth—but it did not excite me in the least. I hope for nothing, I expect nothing. The calm of a nightmare, with the war all around.
Russia invades Poland. I learn this at five o’clock from Paul who also brings letters (the Beaver, Wanda). Real anxiety. I can accept the war only if I think we’ll win. I realize how stupidly I persuaded myself that it would be over in a year, and without any changes. My past life is stuck to me like a scab. I only accepted leaving it without regret through the hope that I would find it again, just as it was.
Greater optimism today about the Russian attitude. We’d like to hope that their entry into Poland is a precautionary measure or a tactic of blackmail against the Germans. Yesterday Corporal Paul said very decidedly: ‘If the Russians come into the game, we’ll no longer just have to accept any peace we can.’
I have not seen the war, which seems impossible to grasp, but I have seen the world of the war. It’s simply the militarized world. The meaning of things has changed. An inn is still there, it’s still decked out and welcoming, but its welcome is empty; in other words this possibility self-destructs and becomes absurd. An inn welcomes people in exchange for moneyand evokes a bourgeois freedom, the freedom of money. But the world of war is a world without money and without freedom. See more
This inn has been requisitioned by the Administration. Soldiers are staying in it, they don’t pay and they don’t stay there freely. For anyone who reads the word ‘Commissariat’ written on its front door, the inn evokes a new meaning: that of gratuitous compulsion. At the same time it has become a pure implement—in other words, whatever former luxury the object possessed, it has now been made to serve solely as a necessity. The pretty room designed to charm the traveller is simply a den for the soldiers occupying it. They sleep there, but on straw. The bed is removed or not touched. And so, long before a bomb destroys the man-made object, the human meaning of the object is already destroyed. In wartime we wander through an implement-world. Exactly as in the barracks. It’s just that, since the pretty charms of things remain, the result is at each moment a kind of evanescent appeal of a world that has disappeared, a continual illusion.