Friday, November 28, 2014

Chance in the Cage

The front is a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever may happen.  We lie under the network of arching shells and live in a suspense of uncertainty.  Over us Chance hovers.  If a shot comes, we can duck, that is all; we neither know nor can determine where it will fall.

It is this Chance that makes us indifferent.  A few months ago I was sitting in a dug-out playing skat; after a while I stood up and went to visit some friends in another dug-out.  On my return nothing more was to be seen of the first one, it had been blown to pieces by a direct hit.  I went back to the second and arrived just in time to lend a hand digging it out.  In the interval it had been buried.

It is just as much a matter of chance that I am still alive as that I might have been hit.  In a bomb-proof dug-out I may be smashed to atoms and in the open may survive ten hours’ bombardment unscathed.  No soldier outlives a thousand chances.  But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck.

- All Quite on the Western Front (1928), by Erich Maria Remarque, chapter 6.


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