The First World War wrecked unimaginable havoc upon the creative communities of the combatants. As the war grinds on “Comptes rendus,” or “Accounts Rendered,” will provide sketches of the poets, painters, writers and composers whose lives were consumed. I make no claims for inclusiveness, and if anyone knows of casualties whose names I have overlooked, they are more than welcome to add them.
Even before actual hostilities broke out, the war had claimed one prominant victim. In July of 1914, Jean Jaures, leader of the French Socialists, was assassinated at an outdoor cafe. A conference of the International had been scheduled for the 9th of August with the aim of preventing the war plans from proceeding by means of a general strike throughout France and Germany. Like many Socialists throughout Europe, Jaures believed that the coming carnage would be a war fomented by aristocrats against nations of opposing aristocrats to achieve goals desired by the aristocracies. In short, that it was no war for working men to be fighting. For a brief moment there was this thought that the Socialist parties of Europe would unite in opposition to the war, forcing the aristocrats to negotiate a settlement amongst themselves, but then the rising fever of nationalism took hold and that dream died.
Oddly enough, although admirals ran in his family, and his younger brother Louis was himself one, Jaures was a staunch anti-militarist and had opposed the introduction of a 1913 law implementing a three-year draft period—and thus providing a ready stream of cannon-fodder for the impending struggle. On July 31st, Jaures was assassinated by Raoul Villain, yet another 20-something nationalist, this one inflamed with the notion of reclaiming Alsace-Lorraine, lost to Germany in the Franco-Prussian War. Even after the war had run its course, and all of its ghastly accounts had been rendered, a French court saw fit to acquit Villain of the murder of Jean Jaures. After all, the man Villain was a patriot.