Sunday, 10 February 2013

miscellaneous freelancing loners

from La Place de la Concorde Suisse

'Massey, at the centre of a cluster of soldiers, removed from his pack a bottle of wine. Massey's pack looked like a launcher of ground-to-air missiles. He began his refresher course with his tire-bouchon, raising the cork. He ran it past his nose, and unbuttoned his breast pocket, reaching for his little glass. “The purpose of the Section de Renseignments is to eliminate uncertainty,” he said, addressing no-one in particular, expecting nothing in return – erupting with mock instructions and aping the tone of an officer, as he often does, apparently to enjoy the sound as it raps the air.'

'The patrols of the Renseignements walk in the unoccupied territory between the battalion and the enemy. They circle high behind enemy lines. Since the mountains are real and the enemy is not there tends to be a certain diminution of energy during a refresher course – particularly on the part of those who go out on patrol, in contrast to those who stay in the command post and think of things for the patrols to do. Essentially, the people in the command posts are editors, trying to make sense of the information presented by the patrols, and by and large the patrols are collections of miscellaneous freelancing loners, who lack enthusiasm for the millitary enterprise, have various levels of antipathy to figures of authority, and, in a phrase employed by themselves and their officers alike, are “the black sheep of the army.”'

'Jean-Bruno Wettstein, as a result of his first repetition course, was among the select who were invited to seek promotion. He went to a doctor instead. He said he had no desire to command anything and did not believe in the army. He said he could not accept the phenomenon of war, believing it to be “absurd and stupid.” The doctor told him that if he was not careful he would be coded psycho in federal files and the label would hamper him for the rest of his life. The doctor wrote a letter that emphasized both Wettstein's sanity and the extreme difficulty he seemed to have in accepting authority. Wettstein was excused from the army for two years. He went to Gascony and worked with goats. “We were going to change the world,” Wettstein said of himself and others. “But the world did not change, and we did.” Eventually, when he rejoined the battalion, he was, in his words, “almost automatically put into Renseignements.”'

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