西蒙•贝克(Simon Baker)写道，理查德•鲍什(Richard Bausch)精心制作的战争故事，探索了残忍与宽恕之间的界限。
Peace by Richard Bausch
Richard Bausch's finely wrought war story explores the territory between brutality and forgiveness, writes Simon Baker
Sun 2 May 2010 00.05 BST
First published on Sun 2 May 2010 00.05 BST
Richard Bausch's novella is set in Italy towards the end of the second world war, when the Germans were retreating while carrying out a few final acts of resistance. It begins with a murder. A group of American GIs find a German soldier and a prostitute hiding in a cart; the German shoots dead two Americans before Corporal Robert Marson kills him. To the horror of the other GIs, their leader, Sergeant Glick, then puts a gun to the unarmed prostitute's head and stops "the sound of her".
After this, Glick sends Marson and two others, Asch and Joyner, on a scouting mission. Guided by an elderly peasant, whom they have press-ganged into leading them through unfamiliar surroundings, they head up a mountain, on the lookout for Germans. The weather is apocalyptic and the terrain is difficult; these intensify the pressure on the young men, who are already suffering from shock and troubled consciences. Asch cannot stop thinking about death, and Joyner obsessively tears at an itch on his arm. Marson, the most mature, tries to keep the pair from feuding, but is beginning to question the ethics of killing strangers, and to wonder whether his own sense of humanity is still intact.
This is a finely crafted book. The prose is spare without veering into affectation; Bausch packs a lot into a few lines, as here, when Marson reflects on a dead colleague: "Walberg. That boy, with his clumsy ways and his big feet and his soft chin that made him look always as if he were about to cry. Walberg never knew what hit him, and everything of him was now gone, all of it, the memory and the stories and the hope of being as funny and entertaining as the others."
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The characters are economically drawn, and while the Asch-Joyner dynamic – they bicker but really care for one another – has been done before, it is portrayed with insight. Wartime is a popular setting for novelists partly because there is something intrinsically moving about ordinary people being forced to exist in extraordinary circumstances – people such as Marson, Asch and Joyner, who were pitching baseballs a year or two earlier, and who are now either killing or trying not to be killed.
But Peace is an especially good work, because it contains real characters rather than parable figures. They change their minds, lie to themselves and argue incessantly. Ultimately, though, they discover an oddity of warfare: once you grow sick of slaughter, you cling to all life, even that of the person who wants to destroy you. Bausch's book recalls, in its examination of people trying to reconcile their brutal roles with their innate sense of forgiveness, an immortal line by Wilfred Owen: "I am the enemy you killed, my friend."