Le déserteur (Boris Vian)

Composer
Music by Boris Vian (1920-1959) with Harold Berg (1923-2007)
Year of composition
1954
Lyricist
Boris Vian
Publisher
Difficulty
Moderate (Grades 4-6)
Duration
3 minutes
Genre
Other
Instrumentation
Voice + keyboard
Instrumental parts

According to Jim Rothschild "Harold helped mainly by putting Vian’s ideas down on sheet music, most importantly arranging it, and he made a few minor changes to Vian’s ideas. Harold Berg did not want any credit for the song because Boris Vian had the words and most of the melody complete in his own mind. But Boris insisted that Harold be listed as a co-writer since he not only arranged it, but had added a few melodic ideas." Sung for the first time by Mouloudgi in May 1954. Boris Vian (1920-1959), a French engineer by education, gifted with amazing talents, was at any one time a poet, a novelist, a musician, a jazz trumpeter, a singer, an actor; he also was a pacifist, an anti-power genius with extreme sensitivity ("une sensibilité à fleur de peau"). Translation:

Mister President I’m writing you a letter that perhaps you will read If you have the time.

I’ve just received my call-up papers to leave for the war Before Wednesday night.

Mister President I do not want to go I am not on earth to kill other people.

It’s not to upset you I must tell you my decision is taken I am going to desert.

Since I was born I have seen my father die I have seen my brothers leave and my children cry.

My mother has so suffered that she is in her grave and laughs at the bombs and laughs at the worms.

When I was a prisoner I was stolen my wife I was stolen my soul and all my dear past.

Early tomorrow morning I will close my door on dead years’ face I will take to the road.

I will beg my way along on the roads of France from Brittany to Provence and I will cry out to the people:

Refuse to obey refuse to do it don’t go to war refuse to go.

If blood must be given go and give your own you are a good apostle Mister President.

If you go after me warn your police officers that I’ll be unarmed and that they can shoot.

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