Monsieur le Ministre was evidently rather uncomfortable. He writhed a little in his chair, and tweaked his chin three or four times. The rosette and the moustache were exchanging animated phrases. At last Noyon, motioning for silence and speaking in an almost desperate tone, demanded:
'Est-ce-que vous détestez les boches?'
I had won my own case. The question was purely perfunctory. To walk out of the room a free man I had merely to say yes. My examiners were sure of my answer. The rosette was leaning forward and smiling encouragingly. The moustache was making little oui's in the air with his pen. And Noyon had given up all hope of making me out a criminal. I might be rash, but I was innocent; the dupe of a superior and malign intelligence. I would probably be admonished to choose my friends more carefully next time, and that would be all....
Deliberately, I framed the answer:
Non. J'aime beaucoup les français.'
Agile as a weasel, Monsieur le Ministre was on top of me: 'It is impossible to love Frenchmen and not to hate Germans.'
I did not mind his triumph in the least. The discomfiture of the rosette merely amused me. The surprise of the moustache I found very pleasant.
Poor rosette! He kept murmuring desperately: 'Fond of his friend, quite right. Mistaken of course, too bad, meant well.'
'With a supremely disagreeable expression on his immaculate face the victorious minister of security pressed his victim with regained assurance: 'But you are doubtless aware of the atrocities committed by the boches?'
'I have read about them,' I replied cheerfully.
'You do not believe?'
'Ça se peut.'
'And if they are so, which of course they are' (tone of profound conviction), 'you do not detest the Germans?'
'Oh, in that case, of course anyone must detest them,' I averred with perfect politeness.
And my case was lost, for ever lost. I breathed freely once more. All my nervousness was gone. The attempt of the three gentlemen sitting before me to endow my friend and myself with different fates had irrevocably failed.
At the conclusion of a short conference I was told by Monsieur:
'I am sorry for you, but due to your friend you will be detained a little while.'
I asked: 'Several weeks?'
'Possibly,' said Monsieur.
This concluded the trial.
(E.E Cummings, The Enormous Room, 1922)
Plus d'informations en anglais :
et en français à propos de L'Enorme Chambrée (traduit de l'anglais par par D. Jon Grossman) : http://remue.net/spip.php?article1887