do not mention the war

28 June 1914

In History on June 28, 2014 at 10:00

The events of 28 June 1914: The Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were killed in Sarajevo by Serbian nationalists. This fact is undebatable. Throughout July, Europe remained calm, only to stir into action towards the end of the month when Austria declared war on Serbia, which triggered a declaration of war of Russia to Austria which in return demanded Germany to declare war on Russia and France as it was allied with Austria. This is the first post in a series of posts re-telling the Great War from an Anglo-German perspective.The first one looks at the reception of the news that the Archduke has been killed and how it has been included into a literary narrative by the Hungarian writer Sándor Márai. In his biography he describes the scene of a summer party when all of a sudden, the host, Endré receives a letter. It contained news that the Archduke and his wife were killed in Sarajevo. The character immediately comprehended the gravity of the situation as he turns into a piece of chalk upon reading the news.

Er riß den Brief auf, kam zum Laubenweg zurück, blieb auf der Schwelle stehen, schwieg. Er war kreidebleich; er trug einen schwarzen Kossuthbart, aus diesem Trauerrahmen leuchtete uns jetzt totenblaß sein erschrockenes Gesicht entgegen.
‘Was ist Endre?’ fragte Vater und ging auf ihn zu.
‘Man hat den Thronfolger getötet’, sagte er mit einer gereizten Handbewegung.
In der tiefen Stille klang die Zigeunermusik so nahe, als spielte sie in unserem Garten. Die Zwiebelmustertassen in der Hand, saßen wir regungslos um den Tisch, irgendwie erstarrt an einem toten Punkt, wie in einer Pantomime. Ich folgte Vaters Blick, er richtete ihn ratlos zum Himmel.
Der Himmel war hellblau, von einem dünnen Sommerblau.
Nicht die kleinste Wolke zeigte sich.


Márai described the scene and how everyone at the party suddenly froze; no one moved or spoke. The perplexity was palpable. And the sky was blue. It is an image that is exemplary for Europe at the time. It was as though paralysis had taken hold of Europe, only to be released a month later when war was declared.

Sandor Marai: Bekenntnisse eines Bürgers: Erinnerungen



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