‘Only the villages are asleep, the eternal reservoir of all kinds of soldiery, the inexhaustible source of physical strength’
At the beginning of the twentieth century the villagers of the Carpathian mountains lead a simple life, much as they have always done. The modern world has yet to reach the inhabitants of this isolated and remote region of the Habsburg Empire. Among them is Piotr, a bandy-legged peasant, who wants nothing more from life than 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. All the weight of imperial authority is used to mould him into an unthinking fighting machine, so that the bewildered peasant can be forced to fight a war he does not understand, for interests other than his own.
The Salt of the Earth is a classic war novel, a powerful pacifist tale about the consequences of war on ordinary men.