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Chapter 12

IT must have been three days after the Barcelona fighting ended that we returned to the front. After the fighting--more particularly after the slanging-match in the newspapers--it was difficult to think about this war in quite the same naively idealistic manner as before. I suppose there is no one who spent more than a few weeks in Spain without being in some degree disillusioned. My mind went back to the newspaper correspondent whom I had met my first day in Barcelona, and who said to me: 'This war is a racket the same as any other.' The remark had shocked me deeply, and at that time (December) I do not believe it was true; it was not true even now, in May; but it was becoming truer. The fact is that every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are simply not compatible with military efficiency.

One could begin now to make some kind of guess at what was likely to happen. It was easy to see that the Caballero Government would fall and be replaced by a more Right-wing Government with a stronger Communist influence (this happened a week or two later), which would set itself to break the power of the trade unions once and for all. And afterwards, when Franco was beaten--and putting aside the huge problems raised by the reorganization of Spain--the prospect was not rosy. As for the newspaper talk about this being a 'war for democracy', it was plain eyewash. No one in his senses supposed that there was any hope of democracy, even as we understand it in England or France, in a country so divided and exhausted as Spain would be when the war was over. It would have to be a dictatorship, and it was clear that the chance of a working-class dictatorship had passed. That meant that the general movement would be in the direction of some kind of Fascism. Fascism called, no doubt, by some politer name, and--because this was Spain--more human and less efficient than the German or Italian varieties. The only alternatives were an infinitely worse dictatorship by Franco, or (always a possibility) that the war would end with Spain divided up, either by actual frontiers or into economicszones.

Whichever way you took it it was a depressing outlook. But it did not follow that the Government was not worth fighting for as against the more naked and developed Fascism of Franco and Hitler. Whatever faults the post-war Government might have, Franco's regime would certainly be worse. To the workers--the town proletariat--it might in the end make very little difference who won, but Spain is primarily an agricultural country and the peasants would almost certainly benefit by a Government victory. Some at least of the seized lands would remain in their possession, in which case there would also be a distribution of land in the territory that had been Franco's, and the virtual serfdom that had existed in some parts of Spain was not likely to be restored. The Government in control at the end of the war would at any rate be anti-clerical and anti-feudal. It would keep the Church in check, at least for the time being, and would modernize the country--build roads, for instance, and promote education and public health; a certain amount had been done in this direction even during the war. Franco, on the other hand, in so far as he was not merely the puppet of Italy and Germany, was tied to the big feudal landlords and stood for a stuffy clerico-military reaction. The Popular Front might be a swindle, but Franco was an anachronism. Only millionaires or romantics could want him to win.

Moreover, there was the question of the international prestige of Fascism, which for a year or two past had been haunting me like a nightmare. Since 1930 the Fascists had won all the victories; it was time they got a beating, it hardly mattered from whom. If we could drive Franco and his foreign mercenaries into the sea it might make an immense improvement in the world situation, even if Spain itself emerged with a stifling dictatorship and all its best men in jail. For that alone the war would have been worth winning.

This was how I saw things at the time. I may say that I now think much more highly of the Negrin Government than I did when it came into office. It has kept up the difficult fight with splendid courage, and it has shown more political tolerance than anyone expected. But I still believe that--unless Spain splits up, with unpredictable consequences--the tendency of the post-war Government is bound to be Fascistic. Once again I let this opinion stand, and take the chance that time will do to me what it does to most prophets.

We had just reached the front when we heard that Bob Smillie, on his way back to England, had been arrested at the frontier, taken down to Valencia, and thrown into jail. Smillie had been in Spain since the previous October. He had worked for several months at the P.O.U.M. office and had then joined the militia when the other I.L.P. members arrived, on the understanding that he was to do three months at the front before going back to England to take part in a propaganda tour. It was some time before we could discover what he had been arrested for. He was being kept incommunicado, so that not even a lawyer could see him. In Spain there is--at any rate in practice--no habeas corpus, and you can be kept in jail for months at a stretch without even being charged, let alone tried. Finally we learned from a released prisoner that Smillie had been arrested for 'carrying arms'. The 'arms', as I happened to know, were two hand-grenades of the primitive type used at the beginning of the war, which he had been taking home to show off at his lectures, along with shell splinters and other souvenirs. The charges and fuses had been removed from them--they were mere cylinders of steel and completely harmless. It was obvious that this was only a pretext and that he had been arrested because of his known connexion with the P.O.U.M. The Barcelona fighting had only just ended and the authorities were, at that moment, extremely anxious not to let anyone out of Spain who was in a position to contradict the official version. As a result people were liable to be arrested at the frontier on more or less frivolous pretexts. Very possibly the intention, at the beginning, was only to detain Smillie for a few days. But the trouble is that, in Spain, once you are in jail you generally stay there, with or without trial.

We were still at Huesca, but they had placed us further to the right, opposite the Fascist redoubt which we had temporarily captured a few weeks earlier. I was now acting as teniente--corresponding to second-lieutenant in the British Army, I suppose--in command of about thirty men, English and Spanish. They had sent my name in for a regular commission; whether I should get it was uncertain. Previously the militia officers had refused to accept regular commissions, which meant extra pay and conflicted with the equalitarian ideas of the militia, but they were now obliged to do so. Benjamin had already been gazetted captain and Kopp was in process of being gazetted major. The Government could not, of course, dispense with the militia officers, but it was not confirming any of them in a higher rank than major, presumably in order to keep the higher commands for Regular Army officers and the new officers from the School of War. As a result, in our division, the agth, and no doubt in many others, you had the queer temporary situation of the divisional commander, the brigade commanders, and the battalion commanders all being majors.

There was not much happening at the front. The battle round the Jaca road had died away and did not begin again till mid June. In our position the chief trouble was the snipers. The Fascist trenches were more than a hundred and fifty yards away, but they were on higher ground and were on two sides of us, our line forming a right-angle salient. The corner of the salient was a dangerous spot; there had always been a toll of sniper casualties there. From time to time the Fascists let fly at us with a rifle-grenade or some similar weapon. It made a ghastly crash--unnerving, because you could not hear it coming in time to dodge --but was not really dangerous; the hole it blew in the ground was no bigger than a wash-tub. The nights were pleasantly warm, the days blazing hot, the mosquitoes were becoming a nuisance, and in spite of the clean clothes we had brought from Barcelona we were almost immediately lousy. Out in the deserted orchards in no man's land the cherries were whitening on the trees. For two days there were torrential rains, the dug-outs flooded, and the parapet sank a foot; after that there were more days of digging out the sticky clay with the wretched Spanish spades which have no handles and bend like tin spoons.

They had promised us a trench-mortar for the company; I was looking forward to it gready. At nights we patrolled as usual--more dangerous than it used to be, because the Fascist trenches were better manned and they had grown more alert; they had scattered tin cans just outside their wire and used to open up with the machine-guns when they heard a clank. In the daytime we sniped from no man's land. By crawling a hundred yards you could get to a ditch, hidden by tall grasses, which commanded a gap in the Fascist parapet. We had set up a rifle-rest in the ditch. If you waited long enough you generally saw a khaki-clad figure slip hurriedly across the gap. I had several shots. I don't know whether I hit anyone--it is most unlikely; I am a very poor shot with a rifle. But it was rather fun, the Fascists did not know where the shots were coming from, and I made sure I would get one of them sooner or later. However, the dog it was that died--a Fascist sniper got me instead. I had been about ten days at the front when it happened. The whole experience of being hit by a bullet is very interesting and I think it is worth describing in detail.

It was at the corner of the parapet, at five o'clock in the morning. This was always a dangerous time, because we had the dawn at our backs, and if you stuck your head above the parapet it was clearly outlined against the sky. I was talking to the sentries preparatory to changing the guard. Suddenly, in the very middle of saying something, I felt--it is very hard to describe what I felt, though I remember it with the utmost vividness.

Roughly speaking it was the sensation of being at the centre of an explosion. There seemed to be a loud bang and a blinding flash of light all round me, and I felt a tremendous shock--no pain, only a violent shock, such as you get from an electric terminal; with it a sense of utter weakness, a feeling of being stricken and shrivelled up to nothing. The sand-bags in front of me receded into immense distance. I fancy you would feel much the same if you were struck by lightning. I knew immediately that I was hit, but because of the seeming bang and flash I thought it was a rifle nearby that had gone off accidentally and shot me. All this happened in a space of time much less than a second. The next moment my knees crumpled up and I was falling, my head hitting the ground with a violent bang which, to my relief, did not hurt. I had a numb, dazed feeling, a consciousness of being very badly hurt, but no pain in the ordinary sense.

The American sentry I had been talking to had started forward. 'Gosh! Are you hit?' People gathered round. There was the usual fuss--'Lift him up! Where's he hit? Get his shirt open!' etc., etc. The American called for a knife to cut my shirt open. I knew that there was one in my pocket and tried to get it out, but discovered that my right arm was paralysed. Not being in pain, I felt a vague satisfaction. This ought to please my wife, I thought; she had always wanted me to be wounded, which would save me from being killed when the great battle came. It was only now that it occurred to me to wonder where I was hit, and how badly; I could feel nothing, but I was conscious that the bullet had struck me somewhere in the front of the body. When I tried to speak I found that I had no voice, only a faint squeak, but at the second attempt I managed to ask where I was hit. In the throat, they said. Harry Webb, our stretcher-bearer, had brought a bandage and one of the little bottles of alcohol they gave us for field-dressings. As they lifted me up a lot of blood poured out of my mouth, and I heard a Spaniard behind me say that the bullet had gone clean through my neck. I felt the alcohol, which at ordinary times would sting like the devil, splash on to the wound as a pleasant coolness.

They laid me down again while somebody fetched a stretcher. As soon as I knew that the bullet had gone clean through my neck I took it for granted that I was done for. I had never heard of a man or an animal getting a bullet through the middle of the neck and surviving it. The blood was dribbling out of the comer of my mouth. 'The artery's gone,' I thought. I wondered how long you last when your carotid artery is cut; not many minutes, presumably. Everything was very blurry. There must have been about two minutes during which I assumed that I was killed. And that too was interesting--I mean it is interesting to know what your thoughts would be at such a time. My first thought, conventionally enough, was for my wife. My second was a violent resentment at having to leave this world which, when all is said and done, suits me so well. I had time to feel this very vividly. The stupid mischance infuriated me. The meaninglessness of it! To be bumped off, not even in battle, but in this stale comer of the trenches, thanks to a moment's carelessness! I thought, too, of the man who had shot me-- wondered what he was like, whether he was a Spaniard or a foreigner, whether he knew he had got me, and so forth. I could not feel any resentment against him. I reflected that as he was a Fascist I would have killed him if I could, but that if he had been taken prisoner and brought before me at this moment I would merely have congratulated him on his good shooting. It may be, though, that if you were really dying your thoughts would be quite different.

They had just got me on to the stretcher when my paralysed right arm came to life and began hurting damnably. At the time I imagined that I must have broken it in falling; but the pain reassured me, for I knew that your sensations do not become more acute when you are dying. I began to feel more normal and to be sorry for the four poor devils who were sweating and slithering with the stretcher on their shoulders. It was a mile and a half to the ambulance, and vile going, over lumpy, slippery tracks. I knew what a sweat it was, having helped to carry a wounded man down a day or two earlier. The leaves of the silver poplars which, in places, fringed our trenches brushed against my face; I thought what a good thing it was to be alive in a world where silver poplars grow. But all the while the pain in my arm was diabolical, making me swear and then try not to swear, because every time I breathed too hard the blood bubbled out of my mouth.

The doctor re-bandaged the wound, gave me a shot of morphia, and sent me off to Sietamo. The hospitals at Sietamo were hurriedly constructed wooden huts where the wounded were, as a rule, only kept for a few hours before being sent on to Barbastro or Lerida. I was dopey from morphia but still in great pain, practically unable to move and swallowing blood constantly. It was typical of Spanish hospital methods that while I was in this state the untrained nurse tried to force the regulation hospital meal--a huge meal of soup, eggs, greasy stew, and so forth--down my throat and seemed surprised when I would not take it. I asked for a cigarette, but this was one of the periods of tobacco famine and there was not a cigarette in the place. Presently two comrades who had got permission to leave the line for a few hours appeared at my bedside.

'Hullo! You're alive, are you? Good. We want your watch and your revolver and your electric torch. And your knife, if you've got one.'

They made off with all my portable possessions. This always happened when a man was wounded--everything he possessed was promptly divided up; quite rightly, for watches, revolvers, and so forth were precious at the front and if they went down the line in a wounded man's kit they were certain to be stolen somewhere on the way.

By the evening enough sick and wounded had trickled in to make up a few ambulance-loads, and they sent us on to Barbastro. What a journey! It used to be said that in this war you got well if you were wounded in the extremities, but always died of a wound in the abdomen. I now realized why. No one who was liable to bleed internally could have survived those miles of jolting over metal roads that had been smashed to pieces by heavy lorries and never repaired since the war began. Bang, bump, wallop! It took me back to my early childhood and a dreadful thing called the Wiggle-Woggle at the White City Exhibition. They had forgotten to tie us into the stretchers. I had enough strength in my left arm to hang on, but one poor wretch was spilt on to the floor and suffered God knows what agonies. Another, a walking case who was sitting in the corner of the ambulance, vomited all over the place. The hospital in Barbastro was very crowded, the beds so close together that they were almost touching. Next morning they loaded a number of us on to the hospital train and sent us down to Lerida.

I was five or six days in Lerida. It was a big hospital, with sick, wounded, and ordinary civilian patients more or less jumbled up together. Some of the men in my ward had frightful wounds. In the next bed to me there was a youth with black hair who was suffering from some disease or other and was being given medicine that made his urine as green as emerald. His bed-bottle was one of the sights of the ward. An English-speaking Dutch Communist, having heard that there was an Englishman in the hospital, befriended me and brought me English newspapers. He had been ter-ribly wounded in the October fighting, and had somehow managed to settle down at Lerida hospital and had married one of the nurses. Thanks to his wound, one of his legs had shrivelled till it was no thicker than my arm. Two militiamen on leave, whom I had met my first week at the front, came in to see a wounded friend and recognized me. They were kids of about eighteen. They stood awkwardly beside my bed, trying to think of something to say, and then, as a way of demonstrating that they were sorry I was wounded, suddenly took all the tobacco out of their pockets, gave it to me, and fled before I could give it back. How typically Spanish! I discovered afterwards that you could not buy tobacco anywhere in the town and what they had given me was a week's ration.

After a few days I was able to get up and walk about with my arm in a sling. For some reason it hurt much more when it hung down. I also had, for the time being, a good deal of internal pain from the damage I had done myself in falling, and my voice had disappeared almost completely, but I never had a moment's pain from the bullet wound itself. It seems this is usually the case. The tremendous shock of a bullet prevents sensation locally; a splinter of shell or bomb, which is jagged and usually hits you less hard, would probably hurt like the devil. There was a pleasant garden in the hospital grounds, and in it was a pool with gold-fishes and some small dark grey fish--bleak, I think. I used to sit watching them for hours. The way things were done at Lerida gave me an insight into the hospital system on the Aragon front--whether it was the same on other fronts I do not know. In some ways the hospitals were very good. The doctors were able men and there seemed to be no shortage of drugs and equipment. But there were two bad faults on account of which, I have no doubt, hundreds or thousands of men have died who might have been saved.

One was the fact that all the hospitals anywhere near the front line were used more or less as casualty clearing-stations. The result was that you got no treatment there unless you were too badly wounded to be moved. In theory most of the wounded were sent straight to Barcelona or Tarragona, but owing to the lack of transport they were often a week or ten days in getting there. They were kept hanging about at Sietamo, Barbastro, Monzon, Lerida, and other places, and meanwhile they were getting no treatment except an occasional clean bandage, sometimes not even that. Men with dreadful shell wounds, smashed bones, and so forth, were swathed in a sort of casing made of bandages and plaster of Paris; a description of the wound was written in pencil on the outside, and as a rule the casing was not removed till the man reached Barcelona or Tarragona ten days later. It was almost impossible to get one's wound examined on the way; the few doctors could not cope with the work, and they simply walked hurriedly past your bed, saying: 'Yes, yes, they'll attend to you at Barcelona.' There were always rumours that the hospital train was leaving for Barcelona manana. The other fault was the lack of competent nurses. Apparently there was no supply of trained nurses in Spain, perhaps because before the war this work was done chiefly by nuns. I have no complaint against the Spanish nurses, they always treated me with the greatest kindness, but there is no doubt that they were terribly ignorant. All of them knew how to take a temperature, and some of them knew how to tie a bandage, but that was about all. The result was that men who were too ill to fend for themselves were often shamefully neglected. The nurses would let a man remain constipated for a week on end, and they seldom washed those who were too weak to wash themselves. I remember one poor devil with a smashed arm telling me that he had been three weeks without having his face washed. Even beds were left unmade for days together. The food in all the hospitals was very good--too good, indeed. Even more in Spain than elsewhere it seemed to be the tradition to stuff sick people with heavy food. At Lerida the meals were terrific. Breakfast, at about six in the morning, consisted of soup, an omelette, stew, bread, white wine, and coffee, and lunch was even larger-- this at a time when most of the civil population was seriously underfed. Spaniards seem not to recognize such a thing as a light diet. They give the same food to sick people as to well ones--always the same rich, greasy cookery, with everything sodden in olive oil.

One morning it was announced that the men in my ward were to be sent down to Barcelona today. I managed to send a wire to my wife, telling her that I was coming, and presently they packed us into buses and took us down to the station. It was only when the train was actually starting that the hospital orderly who travelled with us casually let fall that we were not going to Barcelona after all, but to Tarragona. I suppose the engine-driver had changed his mind. 'Just like Spain!' I thought. But it was very Spanish, too, that they agreed to hold up the train while I sent another wire, and more Spanish still that the wire never got there.

They had put us into ordinary third-class carriages with wooden seats, and many of the men were badly wounded and had only got out of bed for the first time that morning. Before long, what with the heat and the jolting, half of them were in a state of collapse and several vomited on the floor. The hospital orderly threaded his way among the corpse--like forms that sprawled everywhere, carrying a large goatskin bottle full of water which he squirted into this mouth or that. It was beastly water; I remember the taste of it still. We got into Tarragona as the sun was getting low. The line runs along the shore a stone's throw from the sea. As our train drew into the station a troop-train full of men from the International Column was drawing out, and a knot of people on the bridge were waving to them. It was a very long train, packed to bursting-point with men, with field-guns lashed on the open trucks and more men clustering round the guns. I remember with peculiar vividness the spectacle of that train passing in the yellow evening light; window after window full of dark, smiling faces, the long tilted barrels of the guns, the scarlet scarves fluttering--all this gliding slowly past us against a turquoise-coloured sea.

'Extranjeros--foreigners,' said someone. 'They're Italians. 'Obviously they were Italians. No other people could have grouped themselves so picturesquely or returned the salutes of the crowd with so much grace--a grace that was none the less because about half the men on the train were drinking out of up-ended wine bottles. We heard afterwards that these were some of the troops who won the great victory at Guadalajara in March; they had been on leave and were being transferred to the Aragon front. Most of them, I am afraid, were killed at Huesca only a few weeks later. The men who were well enough to stand had moved across the carriage to cheer the Italians as they went past. A crutch waved out of the window; bandaged forearms made the Red Salute. It was like an allegorical picture of war; the trainload of fresh men gliding proudly up the line, the maimed men sliding slowly down, and all the while the guns on the open trucks making one's heart leap as guns always do, and reviving that pernicious feeling, so difficult to get rid of, that war is glorious after all.

The hospital at Tarragona was a very big one and full of wounded from all fronts. What wounds one saw there! They had a way of treating certain wounds which I suppose was in accordance with the latest medical practice, but which was peculiarly horrible to look at. This was to leave the wound completely open and unbandaged, but protected from flies by a net of butter-muslin, stretched over wires. Under the muslin you would see the red jelly of a half-healed wound. There was one man wounded in the face and throat who had his head inside a sort of spherical helmet of butter-muslin; his mouth was closed up and he breathed through a little tube that was fixed between his lips. Poor devil, he looked so lonely, wandering to and fro, looking at you through his muslin cage and unable to speak. I was three or four days at Tarragona. My strength was coming back, and one day, by going slowly, I managed to walk down as far as the beach. It was queer to see the seaside life going on almost as usual; the smart cafes along the promenade and the plump local bourgeoisie bathing and sunning themselves in deck-chairs as though there had not been a war within a thousand miles. Nevertheless, as it happened, I saw a bather drowned, which one would have thought impossible in that shallow and tepid sea.

Finally, eight or nine days after leaving the front, I had my wound examined. In the surgery where newly-arrived cases were examined, doctors with huge pairs of shears were hacking away the breast-plates of plaster in which men with smashed ribs, collar-bones, and so forth had been cased at the dressing-stations behind the line; out of the neck-hole of the huge clumsy breast-plate you would see protruding an anxious, dirty face, scrubby with a week's beard. The doctor, a brisk, handsome man of about thirty, sat me down in a chair, grasped my tongue with a piece of rough gauze, pulled it out as far as it would go, thrust a dentist's mirror down my throat, and told me to say 'Eh!' After doing this till my tongue was bleeding and my eyes running with water, he told me that one vocal cord was paralysed.

'When shall I get my voice back?' I said.

'Your voice? Oh, you'll never get your voice back,' he said cheerfully.

However, he was wrong, as it turned out. For about two months I could not speak much above a whisper, but after that my voice became normal rather suddenly, the other vocal cord having 'compensated'. The pain in my arm was due to the bullet having pierced a bunch of nerves at the back of the neck. It was a shooting pain like neuralgia, and it went on hurting continuously for about a month, especially at night, so that I did not get much sleep. The fingers of my right hand were also semi-paralysed. Even now, five months afterwards, my forefinger is still numb--a queer effect for a neck wound to have.

The wound was a curiosity in a small way and various doctors examined it with much clicking of tongues and 'Que suerte! Qye suerte!' One of them told me with an air of authority that the bullet had missed the artery by 'about a millimetre'. I don't know how he knew. No one I met at this time--doctors, nurses, practicantes, or fellow-patients--failed to assure me that a man who is hit through the neck and survives it is the luckiest creature alive. I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all.

 

巴塞罗那的战斗已经结束。我们重新返回前线已经三天时间了。经过那场战斗,尤其是在读了报纸上那些互相谩骂的文章之后,我感到真的很难想象,在战斗爆发前我竟天真地认为这将会是一场富有理想主义色彩的战争。我想,每一个在西班牙待过几周的人都会或多或少地有这种理想幻灭的感觉。此时,我想起了到达巴塞罗那第一天遇到的那位记者所说的话:“战争就意味着欺骗,这里的战争也绝不会例外!”我当时很吃惊,根本不相信这是真的,即使到了现在,到了五月份,我也不会相信这是真的。但事实是,这场战争正在一点一点地让我相信这是真的。随着战争的继续,其罪恶也在一点一点地积累,每一场战争都是如此,因为在战争中个人自由、客观报道等等都与战争的效率格格不入。

我们现在就可以猜想一下接下来将会发生些什么。很明显,卡巴列罗政府将要倒台,并且会被一个受共产党影响更深、更右倾的政府所替代(大约在一两周后所发生的事情也确实如此)。新政府试图一劳永逸地瓦解工会的权力。接下来,如果佛朗哥被打败——即使暂且不提重组西班牙政权的问题,工会的前景也并不是很妙。至于报纸上说,这是一场“为民主而战的战争”,那纯属胡言乱语。没有任何理智的人会认为在战后如此分崩离析、元气大伤的西班牙还会有什么民主,就算是在英国和法国,按我们对民主的理解,处于这种情况下也不会存在任何民主的希望。那就只能是专政,而且很清楚,工人阶级专政的可能性已被排除。那就意味着总的趋势将会是很礼貌的。比起德国和意大利,西班牙的法西斯主义要显得“人道”得多、“温和”得多了。战后的西班牙所面临的选择只能是,要么接受佛朗哥的独裁统治,要么使国家走向分裂(可能性更大),也许是领土的真正分裂,也许是分裂成几个经济区域。

然而,无论战后的西班牙走上哪一条道路,其结果都将令人感到沮丧。但比起佛朗哥和希特勒的残暴而强大的法西斯专政,共和国政府还是值得我们去为之战斗的。不管战后这个政府可能会犯多少错误,佛朗哥的统治肯定比它更糟糕。对工人,即城镇无产者来说,谁来统治这个国家都是一回事。但西班牙是个农业国,政府取胜无疑会给农民们带来好处,至少当初夺占的那些土地会继续留在他们手中。如果政府掌权,他们还会没收和分配佛朗哥先前占为己有的土地,而且在西班牙不少地方实行的农奴制也将一去不复返。战后的这个政府肯定是反教会、反封建的,它会限制教会的权力,至少在短期内会是这样的。而且,它还会使国家走向现代化——例如修建公路,加强教育和公共卫生建设。即使在战争期间,政府也已经朝着这个方向做了一些工作。而佛朗哥呢,就人们对他的了解而言,除了充当意大利和德国的傀儡、与大地主沆瀣一气、利用教会和军队反对革命以外,几乎没干过任何好事。人民阵线可能是一场骗局,但若佛朗哥取胜却肯定会是个时代的失误。希望佛朗哥取胜的大概也只有百万富翁和幻想家吧!

更重要的问题是法西斯主义在国际上的恶名,这个问题就像噩梦一样缠绕了我一两年。从1930年开始,法西斯分子就似乎战无不胜。现在该他们遭受打击了,这个时候究竟谁能挫败他们已不重要。如果我们能将佛朗哥及其雇佣军统统赶出西班牙,即使因此付出让西班牙重新回到令人窒息的独裁统治之中,以及西班牙的优秀儿女因此被投入监狱的代价,那么国际形势也将会有极大的改观。因此仅仅从反法西斯的角度来看,这场战争也是值得进行的。

这就是我当时的看法。可以这样说,比起涅格林政府刚刚执政那会儿,我对它的看法已经好多了。这个政府毕竟正以极大的勇气在坚持这场战争,而且也表现出了超出人们预期的政治宽容。但我仍然保留这个观点:只要西班牙不分裂,不管结局怎样,战后政府的发展趋势可顶是走上法西斯式道路。结果不幸又一次被我言中,事情的发展也确实证实了我的预言。

那时,我刚刚到达前线就听说了鲍伯?斯迈利的事。他在返回英国的途中被捕,而且被押回巴伦西亚,投入监狱。从前一年的十月开始,他就一直停留在西班牙。斯迈利曾经为马统工党工作过几个月,后来,当得知回国前要随宣传队要前线待三个月的消息后,他参加了另一支刚刚到达的英国独立工党的民兵小分队。我们过了好久才知道他被捕的原因。他一直被单独监禁,连律师也不准接触。在西班牙,缺乏人身保护历来都是司空见惯的事。你可能在没有任何指控的情况下被投入监狱长达好几个月之久,更不用说是经过审判的了。最后,我们还是从一个被释放的狱友那里得知斯迈利是因“携带武器”而被捕的。所谓“武器”,据我所知,那只不过是战争初期用过的非常原始的两枚手榴弹而已。他带上这两个小玩意儿原本打算回国后在课堂上展示给自己的学生们看的,此外他还顺便捡了些弹片和其他纪念品。那两个手榴弹中根本没有炸药和保险销,其实只是毫无杀伤力的生铁筒而已。很明显,所谓携带武器完全是个借口,斯迈利的被捕无疑是因他曾为马统工党工作过。巴塞罗那战斗刚刚结束,当局仍然非常警惕,根本不会让任何曾经反对过自己的人轻易离开西班牙。所以,在过境检查中,他们只要随便找个理由就可以把任何人抓走。逮捕斯迈利的初衷,也许只是为了把他滞留在西班牙审查上几天。但在西班牙,麻烦的是,一旦你被投入监狱,不管是否经过审判,通常也就只得这样没完没了地待下去。

我们仍然待在韦斯卡前线,但我们被安排在更靠右边的阵地,在几周前我们曾经攻占下来的法西斯据点的对面。我们现在作为teniente*——我猜想,相当于英国军队中的二等陆军上尉-带领着一支30人左右的小分队,其中既有英国人,也有西班牙人。我的名字被呈报上去,申请正规任命,但我无法确定能否得到批准。以前,民兵军官通常拒绝接受正规任命,因为那意味着将有额外的支出,与民兵的平均主义思想相冲突,但现在他们也不得不接受了。公文上已经宣布,本杰明晋升陆军上尉,柯普将要被任命为陆军少校。政府需要民兵作战,必须依靠民兵军官,但并没给他们比少校更高的军衔,这大概主要是为了把军事大权留给正规军的指挥官和从军校刚毕业的军官。结果是,在我们师,毫无疑问在其他师也一样,军官们全部处在荒唐的临时位置上,无论师长、旅长或军长大家都是少校军衔。

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*西班牙语,副官,中尉。——译者

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前线倒没发生太多的事。杰卡要道附近的战役渐趋缓和,直到六月中旬才重新趋向激烈。在我们所处的位置上,主要的困扰是狙击手。法西斯战壕虽然距离我们150多码远,但他们的地势更高,并且分散在我们的两边。我们的阵地呈现为一种直角形状。直角顶端的突出部位是个危险的地方,据守那儿的狙击手经常伤亡惨重。法西斯分子不时地运来枪榴弹或类似的武器居高临下袭击我们。炮弹会发出沉重的爆炸声,这声音让人焦躁不安,因为你无法及时觉察炮弹正在飞来并立即躲避,但是这并不是真正的危险。炮弹在地上炸出的弹坑与洗脸盆差不多大。白天酷热难耐,夜晚虽然比较凉爽,可蚊子却闹得人心烦。我们从巴塞罗那带来的干净衣服,很快就长满了虱子。荒芜的果园无人看管,树上的樱桃正在变白。连续两天的骤雨漫进掩体,胸墙也下沉了一英尺;大雨过后,我们不得不用可怜兮兮的西班牙铁锹挖了多天又湿又黏的土,那铁锹没有木柄,还弯得像个铁勺子。

上面答应给我们小分队配一门迫击炮,我热切盼望着使用它。晚上我们像平常一样巡逻——但比从前更危险,因为法西斯战壕的士兵装备更齐全,而且警惕性很高;他们在铁丝网外撒满了空罐头盒,一有叮当声就用机关枪扫射。白天,我们深入到军事无人区狙击敌人。匍匐前进一百码,就到了一个隐蔽在茂密草丛后的壕沟,从壕沟里可以压制法西斯军队的一堵胸墙的隘口。我们在那里支起一个来复枪架。如果你在那里多等一会儿,一般你就会看到一些穿着卡其布制服的人影匆忙闪过那个隘口。我开了几枪。但不知道是否打中人——那几乎不太可能——我的射击技术很差。但颇为可笑的是,法西斯部队竟弄不清这些子弹是从哪儿飞过来的,所以我相信我迟早准会打中一个。然而,不幸的是,有个法西斯狙击手倒是先打中了我。这事儿发生在我重回前线后的第十天。被子弹击中的整个过程十分有趣,我想这值得仔细描述一番。

那是在壕沟胸墙的角落里,早上五点,这向来就是一个危险的时间。因为我们背对着东边,黎明破晓时,只要你把头探过胸墙,头部轮廓就会在朝阳的映衬下清清楚楚地显露出来。我那时正与一个等待换岗的哨兵说话。就在正说着什么的时候,突然,我感到——很难描述我感到了什么——虽然我对这种感觉至今记忆犹新。

大致说来,那种感觉就像处在爆炸的中心。好象有一声巨响和一道眩目的闪光完全包围了我,然后我感到一阵剧烈的震动——没有疼痛,只是一阵猛烈的震动,就像触了电;震动之后,只觉得全身虚弱无力,类似遭电击的感觉,全身麻木。我面前的沙袋被震出很远。我想如果你曾被闪电击中过,你就会体会得更深刻。我立刻意识到自己中弹了,但是因为有巨响和闪光,我以为是旁边的来复枪意外走火击中了我。所有这一切都发生在不到一秒钟的时间里。接下来,我的膝盖软了,我身子倒下去,头撞到了地上,发出一声闷响。让我稍感安慰的是,头并没撞伤。我感到头昏目眩,觉得自己伤得很重,不是一般的疼痛。

我刚才跟他讲话的那个美国哨兵冲过来。“天哪!你被击中了吗?”大家都围了过来。接着又是通常的一阵惊呼——“把他抬起来!他被打中哪儿了?解开他的衬衣!”等等。那个美国人想找把刀子割开我的衬衫。我知道我的口袋里有一把小刀,就试图拿出来,却发现我的右胳膊已经失去了知觉。由于没觉得疼,我有一种隐隐约约的满足感。这该会使我妻子高兴了,我想;她一直想让我负点伤,以避免我在更大的战役中丢掉性命。直到现在,我才开始想知道我被打中哪儿了,伤得有多严重;我什么也感觉不到,但我意识到子弹击中了我正面的某个地方。当我试图说话时,我发现自己发不声音来了,只能发出微弱的叽叽声,作第二次努力时,我终于问出我哪儿被打中了。在喉咙,他们说。担架员哈里?韦伯带来绷带和一小瓶用于战场消毒的酒精。他们把我抬起时,我嘴里吐出很多血沫。我听到身旁的西班牙人说,子弹穿透了我的脖子。在平时,那酒涂在伤口上会让我感到十分难受,而此时我却觉得它洒在伤口上很舒适、凉爽。

他们再一次把我放下来,有人找来了担架。在知道子弹正巧穿透脖子的一瞬间,我觉得自己这下肯定完蛋了。我还从来没听说过任何人或动物被子弹正中穿过还能活下来的事。血顺着嘴角滴下来。“动脉被打断了。”我想。我猜想一个人颈动脉被割断后还能活多久,也许过不了几分钟吧!眼前的一切都模糊不清。有两分钟左右,我一直在想自己也许已经死了。这也很有趣——我是指知道自己在特殊的时刻会想什么很有趣。我想起的第一件事是——很符合常理——我的妻子。第二件事是对不得不离开这个世界的极度怨恨。把一切问题抛开后,我感到这个世界还是待我不薄。我有足够的时间来真切地感受这一切。这荒谬的不幸使我感到极度恼怒。这简直毫无意义!不是在战场上,而是在这肮脏的战壕的角落里,由于自己的一时疏忽,就这样一命呜呼了!我也想到了开枪打中我的那个人——猜想他到底长得什么模样——是西班牙人还是外国人,他是否知道自己打中了我,等等。我对他没有一点儿怨恨。我想,因为他是一个法西斯主义者,如果我还有可能的话,我也同样会杀死他的。但是如果他被俘虏后,作为战俘被带到我的面前,我只会称赞他的枪法一流。可能人在濒死的时候,想法也会与平常大不相同了吧!

他们刚把我抬上担架,我那麻木的右臂就开始有了知觉,疼得厉害。这时我想一定是在倒下时跌断了的。但是疼痛也让我打消了即将死亡的疑虑。因为我知道,人之将死的时候,感觉不会有那么强烈。我开始有些恢复常态了,突然怜悯起那四个肩上抬着担架的人来。他们汗流浃背,一步一滑地向前挪。救护车距离这里还有1.5英里。路面状况很糟糕,高低不平,泥泞溜滑。我曾在一两天前帮助抬运一个伤员,深知这是个苦差事。在许多地方,白杨叶碰到担架边缘又轻轻地拂过我的脸,这使我感到能够活在一个有白杨树的世界上是多么美好。可是手臂的疼痛像恶魔一样缠绕着我,使我忍不住骂出声来,但终于还是忍住了,因为每次过于用力的呼吸都会使血从嘴里涌出来。

医生给我重新包扎了伤口,注射了一针吗啡,然后就把我送到了谢塔莫。谢塔莫的医院设在临时搭建的木屋里。伤员通常只在那儿停留几小时就被送往巴巴斯特罗或莱里达。我虽然被吗啡麻醉着,还是感到疼痛无比,几乎不能动弹,不停吞咽涌上来的血水。即使在这种状态下,没经训练的护士仍然试图让我咽下医院的标准餐——汤、鸡蛋、油腻的炖菜等——这是西班牙医院典型的做法。看到我不愿下咽,她似乎感到很惊讶。我想要一支烟,但在那个烟草奇缺的时期,医院里哪怕一支烟也找不到。不久,有两个请假暂离前线几小时的战友来到了我的病床边。

“你好啊!你还活着,是吧?太好了!我们想要你的手表、左轮手枪和手电筒。如果你有小刀的话,我们也想要。”

他们带着我所有随身携带的东西离开了,这样的事情经常发生。一个人受伤以后,他所有的东西都会被分光。这再正常不过了,因为手表、左轮手枪等在前线都是非常珍贵的东西。这些东西如果放在伤员的行李中带离前线,那就一定会在途中的某个地方被人偷走。

到了傍晚,病号和伤员不断地被送过来,等到凑满一辆救护车时,人们就把我们抬上车,送往巴巴斯特罗。这是怎样的一段历程啊!人们过去常说,在战场上,手脚受伤的人一般都会好起来,而腹部受伤的人活下来的希望不太大。我现在知道其中的原因了。因为没有一个内脏受伤的伤员能够侥幸熬过那数英里颠簸不堪的碎石路,那些道路被重型卡车碾压得破败不堪,而且自开战以来从没整修过。砰砰!哐哐!乒乓!这不禁使我想起了童年在白城展览中见到的那个叫做“摇来摆去”的怪物。人们忘了应该把我们捆绑在担架上。幸亏我的左手还有点力气,没让我从担架上摔下来。有个不幸的人被重重地摔到车厢地板上,天知道那会有多疼。另一个人歪倒在救护车的角落里,呕吐得到处都是一团糟。巴巴斯特罗的医院非常拥挤,病床挤得几乎连在一起。第二天早晨,人们把我们中的一些伤员抬回医院的火车上,送往莱里达。

我在莱里达待了五六天。那是一个很大的医院,病号、伤员和平民病人几乎完全混杂在一起。我的病床中有些人伤势很重。我旁边的病床上躺着一个黑头发的年轻人。他吃下去的药物使尿液变得像翡翠一样发绿,床前的尿瓶成为病房中的一大奇观!一个说英语的荷兰共产党人听说医院里有一个英国人之后,像朋友一样地对待我,还给我拿来了英文报纸,。他在去年十月的一场战斗中受了重伤,后来在莱里达医院安顿了下来,还娶了这儿的一位漂亮的护士小姐。由于所负的伤,他的一条腿萎缩得像我的胳膊一样细。两个休假的民兵——我们是在前线的第一个星期碰到的——来医院看望受伤的朋友,认出了我。其实,他们只不过是18岁左右的孩子。他们尴尬地站在我的床边,试图说些什么,但最后作为一种表达对我受伤感到难过的方式,突然掏出口袋里所有的烟草塞给我,然后转身就走了。他们走得那么快,以至于我根本来不及把烟草还给他们或者道个谢。这就是典型的西班牙人!后来我才知道,在这小镇中的任何地方都买不到烟草,他们这是把一周的配给量都送给了我。

过了几天,我已经能够胳膊吊着绷带下床走动,但不知什么原因,把胳膊放下时还很疼。当时摔倒造成的内伤也疼得厉害,我几乎完全失声,而伤口本身却没有什么疼痛。事情似乎总是这样:一颗子弹引起的巨大震荡会麻木局部的神经,而杀伤力较小的细小的弹片却会像魔鬼一样折磨你。医院的院子里有个不错的花园,园里有个水塘,养着一些金鱼,还有一些灰色的小鱼——反正,我觉得它们颜色比较灰暗。我常常坐在那里注视着它们,一看就是几个小时。莱里达医院的行事方式,使得我对阿拉贡前线的医院体制有了更深切的感受——不知道其他前线医院的情况是否也是这样。在某些方面,这些医院都还挺不错。医生个个精明能干,也从不缺少药品和医疗器械。但我敢肯定的是,由于两个方面严重的失误,也许使得成百上千个原本能够救活的人死在这里了。

第一个方面就是,无论在什么地方,靠近前线的医院基本上都只为伤员清创包扎。如果你没有伤到不能动弹的地步,你就得不到任何治疗。从理论上说,大部分伤员都被直接送到巴塞罗那或是塔拉戈纳,但由于受运输条件限制,通常得在路上耗上一周甚至十天。这些伤员被滞留爱谢塔莫,巴特斯特罗,蒙松,莱里达或其他地方。除了偶尔清洗一下绷带,他们得不到任何的治疗,有时甚至连清洗绷带也不可能。被炮弹炸成重伤或骨头被炸碎的伤员,多数均被巴黎产的绷带和石膏裹得严严实实,就像被装在硬壳子里一样,伤势记录则用铅笔直接写在硬壳上。通常,他们只有在十天后抵达巴塞罗那或塔拉戈纳后,这个壳子才能被打开。若想在路上检查伤口绝对不可能,少得可怜的几个医生也根本来不及这样做。只有在匆匆忙忙经过病床边的时候,他们才会说:“好啦!好啦!到了巴塞罗那就会有人给你治疗的。”可是谣传却说,医院的专用列车谁也不知什么时候才能开往巴塞罗那。医院的另一个失误就是缺少训练有素的护士。很明显,在西班牙根本就找不到多少护士,这可能是因为在战前医院的护理工作多由修女来完成。我这并非在埋怨西班牙的护士。她们在护理我时表现出了极大的耐心与和善,但毫无疑问,她们也相当缺少专业培训。她们人人都知道如何量体温,有些人还知道怎样缠绷带,但仅此而已。结果,那些身负重伤无法自理的人就惨了。这些护士会眼睁睁地看着一个伤员连续便秘一周以上,她们也很少过问那些虚弱得无法为自己清洗创伤的人。我记得,有一个被炸断了胳膊的可怜家伙告诉我,他已经三个星期没有洗脸了。病床也可以好几天都不给整理一次。医院的伙食好得很——简直是好得过了头。似乎除了西班牙之外别处没有这样的传统:那就是用丰盛而油腻的食物去填塞伤员的肚子。在莱里达,伙食简直棒极了:早餐从六点开始,有汤、煎蛋卷、炖菜、面包、白葡萄酒,还有咖啡;中餐那就更加丰盛——而这时,大多数西班牙人都在忍饥挨饿、营养不良。看来西班牙人从来就不知道什么叫清淡的饮食,因为他们给伤员和健康人吃的食物毫无二致:一样的油腻无比,无论哪一样食品总是用橄榄油浸泡。

一天早晨,医院宣布,我们这个病房的人当天将被送往巴塞罗那。我设法给在巴塞罗那的妻子发了电报,告诉她我很快就要回来了。不久,人们把我们抬上汽车,送往火车站。可是,直到火车开动时,随行的医院勤务员才漫不经心地告诉我们,列车根本不是开往巴塞罗那,而是开往塔拉戈纳。我在想,说不定又是火车司机改变了主意。“这很像西班牙的做法!”我想。但他们同意停车让我再去发一个电报。这也是很典型的西班牙做法,而更典型的是那封电报从未送达。

人们把我们抬进一节最普通的三等车厢,里面只有木椅子。许多人伤势很重,那天早上还是他们负伤以来第一次离开病床。不一会,由于酷热和颠簸,几乎有过半伤病员发生虚脱,有些人更呕吐得满地秽物。随车的医务人员在横七竖八地躺着的有如死尸般的伤病员中穿梭,他们抱着装满水的大山羊皮水袋,不停地把水灌入一张张嘴里。那水非常难喝,直到现在我都还记得那种怪味。太阳快要落山时,我们到了塔拉戈纳。铁路是沿着海岸线铺设的,离海面很近。我们乘坐的列车进站时,正好有一列满载国际纵队士兵的军用列车出站,天桥上的人们正向他们热情挥手。那列车很长,车上面载满了士兵,以及拖着野战炮的敞蓬卡车,每门野战炮下都站了很多士兵。车厢好象要被挤爆了一样。至今我仍异常清晰地记得那列火车在昏黄夜色中驶过的情景。一扇扇挤满笑脸的列车窗,一根根斜放的长枪筒,一条条飘动的红丝巾——所有这一切都在青绿色海面的映衬下从我们的眼前慢慢地闪过。

“外国人,”有人说道,“他们是意大利人。”

这很明显。因为除了意大利人,没有人能组成如此优美的队伍,也没有人能如此优雅地回应人们的欢呼致敬——这优雅并未因列车上近一半的士兵喝得人仰马翻而稍逊本色。后来我们才听说,这些意大利士兵是取得三月瓜达拉哈拉战役胜利的部队的一部分。他们刚刚休整过,现在被调往阿拉贡前线。他们中大多数人都在几周后的韦斯卡战役中阵亡。在我们的列车上,一些尚能扶杖站立的伤员在车窗前挤来挤去,向那列车上的意大利人欢呼。一根根拐杖伸出窗外不停地挥动着。一只只缠着绷带的手不停地敬礼。这简直就是活脱脱一幅战争的讽喻画。满载着士兵的列车骄傲地呼啸而去,满载着伤员的火车慢慢地停下来。那卡车拖着的大炮像往常一样令人胆寒,那种恐惧无论如何挥之不去。但这场战争毕竟是光荣的。

塔拉戈纳的医院非常大,里面住满了来自各条战线的伤员。看看这儿有些什么样的创伤吧!这儿有一种特殊的治疗创伤的办法。我想也许是根据某种最新医疗实践发明的。但这看上去却异常可怕。这种方法完全不用包扎伤口,而是尽量让伤口充分暴露,然后用涂满黄油的棉布蒙在罩住伤口的铁丝网上遮挡苍蝇。透过油布,你可以看到那半愈合伤口上血红色的胶冻状物。有一个伤员脸部和喉部受了伤。他的脑袋被套在一个涂满黄油的棉布蒙成的圆形头套里,嘴被封住,只能通过插在双唇之间的细胶管来呼吸。可怜的人!他看上去非常孤独凄惶,眼神飘忽不定;他只能透过棉布罩木然地看着你,更是无法说话。我在塔拉戈纳待了三四天,体力渐渐恢复了。一天,我竟能慢慢地走近沙滩。海边的一切仍像往常一样奢华,这令人感到不可思议。海滨步行街上高档咖啡馆比比皆是,肥头胖脑的当地资产阶级们悠闲地躺在折叠椅上沐浴阳光,好象战争远在千万里一样。但我的确看到一个游泳者被淹死了。这样的事竟发生杂那样浅而温暖的海水中,实在是令人匪夷所思。

离开前线***天后,终于有人为我检查创伤了。手术室里,医生们正在检查刚到的伤员。他们用双手握住长柄大剪刀剪开护胸甲,然后摞好。在前线急救站,肋骨、锁骨,以及其他部位骨折的伤员,一般要被套上护胸甲。在大而笨重的护胸甲的领口上方,你可以看到一长焦虑且肮脏的面孔,嘴巴上长满了乱蓬蓬的胡子。那位医生,三十岁左右,精神饱满,模样帅气。他让我坐在椅子上,然后就用粗糙的纱布包住我的舌头使劲地向外拽,接着把一面牙医用的小镜子塞进我的喉咙里,要我说“啊……”他一直这么拽着,直到我舌头上渗血,眼睛里充满了泪水,他这才告诉我,有一侧声带麻痹了。

“到什么时候声音才能恢复正常?”我问道。

“声音?哦,你的声音永远都不会恢复正常了。”他很高兴地说道。

但是,我以后的经历证明他错了。在大约两个月的时间里,我只能用非常低而细小的声音说话。但从那以后,我的声音突然恢复正常,另一边声带竟然康复了。我的手臂疼痛,大概是因为子弹损伤了脖子后面的某处神经。手臂部的这种神经性阵痛大约持续了一个月,晚上疼得尤其厉害,几乎难以入睡。我的右手手指基本上处于半瘫痪状态。直到现在,五个月过去了,食指依然麻木——这是颈部受伤留下的一种奇怪的后遗症。

我的伤势成为医院里的小小奇闻。许多医生在给我做检查时,全都禁不住咂舌感叹:“运气真好!运气真好!”其中一位医生用极其权威的口吻告诉我:子弹和动脉之间只有不到一毫米的距离。我不清楚他是怎么测量出来的。我那时遇到的所有人——医生、护士、实习医生和病人——都说,你被子弹打穿脖子竟然能活下来,实在是太幸运了!但我却禁不住地想说,要是根本就没打着,那岂不是更幸运么?