THE LAST DAYS OF MANKIND ACT I SCENE 20
Bukowina front. Unit base. Lieutenants Fallota and Beinstaller enter.
BEINSTELLER: The chaplain needs a picture taken for the Interessante,  on horseback, giving the last rites to a dying man. To be posed if necessary; the editor also wants a prayer at a soldier’s grave, we can do that anytime.
FALLOTA: Yesterday I got a very arresting shot. A dying Russian, a real human interest piece, with a bullet in the head, so natural. You know, he could still stare at the camera. He had a look in his eye, you know, as if he was posing, first-rate, is that one for the Interessante, would they take it?
BEINSTELLER: Absolutely, they’d pay as well.
FALLOTA: You think? Listen, you missed something yesterday, we were about to execute a spy for a Sascha-Film newsreel, the Ruthenian priest, you know, and the corporal holding him only fainted; pity you weren’t there.
BEINSTELLER: What did you do with the eejit?
FALLOTA: Tied him upright, made him do it. I wasn’t about to put him in the brig, it’s not peacetime – the brig’s just what these fellows would love.
You know who’s having the time of his life out here? Nowak of the 14th,  always a great guy. Pühringer sent me a note; Nowak was watching some old Serbian peasant going to draw water from the Drina. A lull in the action, so he says to Pühringer, see that one over there, then he takes aim, boom, he bags him. Fantastic guy. If it moves he’ll shoot it. He’s up for an Iron Cross.
BEINSTELLER: That’s a classic! I’ll be interested in how Scharinger worms his way out of that business he got himself into, did you hear?
FALLOTA: When he chickened out during an attack?
BEINSTELLER: That’s no way to talk about a career officer –
FALLOTA: You mean the cook, when he put him right in the firing line for burning the – (laughs) never used to be any hassle over that sort of shit before. There was a lot more fun all round, with the punishment beatings and all that. And non-stop champagne! Now it’s just so boring. I can’t say there’s any real pleasure left for me out here, well, apart from the totty.
BEINSTELLER: I get the feeling there’s an appetite for another big push though, I suppose it would make a bit of a change at any rate.
FALLOTA: The last one was crazy. Two thousand wounded, six hundred dead – I mean I’m not sentimental, I’m always for getting on with the job –
BEINSTELLER: Yes, that one was definitely a mystery to me.
FALLOTA: We didn’t take the tiniest section of trench, it was all about getting something in the papers. Four weeks the men were pinned down -
BEINSTELLER: I’m not the squeamish sort! I still think that whenever possible – be a bit economical with the manpower. But first they blow all the trained personnel, next they send men straight from their medicals to the front. Cannon fodder, they couldn’t tell a hand grenade from a piece of shit.
FALLOTA: When all’s said and done one does need troops! Still, we have carried out two hundred and forty civilian death sentences this month, on the spot jobs too, that’s one thing that really is running like clockwork anyway.
BEINSTELLER: Political prisoners?
FALLOTA: Let’s just say politically dubious.
FALLOTA: I’m not one for martial law myself, all that endless paperwork: Execution ordered! Execution carried out! Have you ever looked at a legal document, I haven’t. Once my sabre’s girded on I don’t feel any need.
BEINSTELLER: They still expect us to turn up for these executions!
FALLOTA: At the start I was quite interested. But now, if I’m in the middle of a card game, I send a cadet. You can hear it from inside anyway.
BEINSTELLER: How’s Floderer?  Still shooting up his own men?
FALLOTA: Absolutely! They discovered the old bastard was pretty well paralysed a year ago. They keep sending him away and he just keeps coming back. The other day he brought down some sergeant whose lieutenant had sent him back for more ammunition; he thought the poor sod was doing a runner. Didn’t even bother to challenge him, bang-bang, dead and gone.
BEINSTELLER: One more, one less. After a year – I have to say, dead is no big deal. The wounded are the biggest problem. Come the peace, all we’ll get is organ grinders, I feel like covering my ears up already. What are we going to do with them? Wounded – it’s a half-arsed business. I say: a hero’s death or nothing, anything less and you’ve only got yourself to blame.
 Bukowina (Bucovina, Romanian; Bukovyna, Ukrainian), north-east of the Carpathian Mountains, a region now divided between Romania and Ukraine; its capital, Czernowitz (Czernivtsi), now in Ukraine.
 Kraus’s names, as we’ve seen, often express characteristics or qualities directly. Fallota seems to be from an Austrian word Fallot, ‘fraud’, ‘cheat’; in English drama compare Sir Wilfull Witwoud, Congreve’s ‘The Way of the World’, etc. It isn’t always easy to find English equivalents (Kraus’s inventions often play with real names), here, as elsewhere, I have only suggested English versions in footnotes: Fiddler.
 ‘Interessante Blatt’ (1896-1939), illustrated magazine; the name might translate as ‘Intrigue’.
 Alexander Kolowrat’s film studio.
 From the Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1913): Ruthenians; A Slavic people from Southern Russia, Galicia and Bukowina in Austria, and north-eastern Hungary. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire the Ruthenians are separated from one another by the Carpathian Mountains, which leave one division of them in Galicia and the other in Hungary. The Ruthenians in Russia and Bukowina belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, whilst those of Galicia and Hungary are Greek Catholics in unity with the Holy See.
 Infantry regiment.
 Austrian name; Pühring is in the municipality of Kronstorf in Upper Austria, near Linz.
 Also an Austrian name; Schärding is a town and district in Upper Austria, right on the border with Germany, close to Passau, called Scharing in the area’s Austro-Bavarian dialect.
 Wobbler; Floderer is a very uncommon Austrian name; the equally uncommon verb flodern means basically ‘flutter’ or ‘flicker’; similar words can also mean ‘wobble’, ‘be unsteady’; ‘throw a wobbly’.