Thanksgiving Is Ruined
October 29, 2012
Apollinaire, in an article published on April 6, 1918:
The exodus of the painters. The avant-garde painters who have not been called up seem to prefer the Midi to the bombardments of of Paris. . . .
But Picasso stays, impassive, in his Montrouge, on the edge of Paris.
"Before the war we had buses, and now we have Big Bertha. Who knows whether the former did not kill more people than the latter?" declares Picasso jokingly, and he may have a point.
from Apollinaire on Art: Essays and Reviews, 1902-1918
(Susan Suleiman, tr.)
Picasso's original remark (found in here):
"Avant la guerre, nous avions les autobus, maintenant nous avons les obus."It's not hard to see how Apollinaire could have found the above remark remarkable. He seems to have liked the word "obus" (artillery shell). It shows up prominently in Calligrammes (1918) (e.g., poems here, here, here, here, here, twice in two lines here, etc.).
One fun page with some information on the spread of the autobus in pre-WWI Paris is here. Some informative pages about the terrifying, March 1918 appearance of Germany's new Pariskanone is here and here.
Maybe Picasso's joke resembles numerous of Apollinaire's poems (especially the wartime ones), in offering through language (including puns) a moment to contemplate the interplay between the dual faces of technology. Goodgodyall what a pretentious previous sentence.