This took a while to get going, and I have a feeling I’m going to need to read it twice because I was seriously distracted when I started, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it now.
“Shall I tell you why young men love war?” Schramm offers dreamily. “In peace, there are a hundred questions with a thousand answers! In war, ther s only one big question with one right answer.” He pours them another shot, emptying the bottle. “War smashes all our petty problems and sweeps the shards into one huge, patriotic pile. Going to war makes you a man. It is emotionally exciting and morally restful.”
“I believed the lies,” Renzo says, leaning back in his chair. “Like every other fool from the Alps to Sicily, I thought I had a share in the glory that was Rome. Mussolini screwed Italy with history, but it wasn’t always rape.” He reached out to tap Schramm’s glass with his own. “Some of us bent over.”
“Would you like to know what the German lie is?” Schramm whispers. “We are the nation of Beethoven and Schiller and Goethe! We are a great people. But –” Schramm leans close. “Did I compse the Eroica? What poetry have I written? Race isn’t talent! Greatness isn’t just … being German. Who could believe nonsense like that? I’ll tell you who! Chicken farmers. Shoemakers. Grocery clerks. Academic drudges. Bureaucratic hacks.”
“Put ordinary shitheads in impressive uniforms, give them guns and permission to use them, they’ll shoot anyone who threatens their illusions,” Renzo agrees.