‘Only the villages are asleep, the eternal reservoir of all kinds of soldiery, the inexhaustible source of physical strength’
The villagers of the Carpathian mountains lead a simple life at the beginning of the twentieth century – much as they have always done. They are isolated and remote, and the advances of the outside world have not touched them. Among them – Piotr, a bandy-legged peasant, whose ‘entire life involved carrying things’. A notional subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, all he wants in life is an official railway cap, a cottage with a mouse-trap and cheese, and a bride with a dowry.
But then the First World War comes to the mountains, and Piotr is drafted into the army. Unwilling, uncomprehending, the bewildered Piotr is forced to fight a war he does not understand – against his national as well as his personal interest.
In a new translation, authorised by the author’s daughter, The Salt of the Earth is a strongly pacifist novel inspired by the Odyssey, about the consequences of war on ordinary men.