Maggie Butt

Barbed Wire Disease

The horror of horrors, the one which does not lessen with time
but goes on increasing, is that you are never alone.

Not by day, by night, not for a second, day after day, year after
year – barbed wire disease – the monstrous, enforced incessant
community with no privacy, no possibility of being alone, no
possibility of finding quietude.

It is not the men of bad character or morals you begin to hate
but the men who draw their soup through their teeth, clean
their ears with their fingers at dinner, hiccough unavoidably
when they get up from their meal,

(a moment awaited with trembling fury by the other), the man
who will invariably make the same remark (day after day, year
after year) as he sits down, the man who lisps, the man who
brags …

… silly trifles get on your nerves and become unendurable by
the simple process of endless repetition.
So grows an atmosphere of mutual dislike, suspiciousness,
meanness, hatred. Men become deadly enemies over a piece of

Paul Cohen Portheim
Extract from memoir