Short summary - The Devil and the Good Lord - Jean-Paul Sartre

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Devil and the Good Lord
Jean-Paul Sartre

The action takes place in Germany, torn apart by a peasant war in the 16th century. However, the story for the author is just a background, the heroes, dressed in old costumes, think quite modernly, trying to answer the eternal questions: what is Good and Evil, what is the freedom of the human person.
Getz - a libertine, a blasphemer, a bandit commander, illegitimate, together with his brother, the knight Konrad, fights against the archbishop. But as soon as the archbishop promises Gets to give him his brother's possessions if he goes over to his side, Gets betrays Konrad, kills him during the battle and, together with the archbishop's people, besieges the rebellious city of Worms.
There is famine in the city, the people are embittered, the priests have shut themselves up in the temple. The only priest Heinrich wanders the streets in confusion. He always consoled the poor, so he was not touched. But now his persuasion to trust the Lord and love his neighbor do not find a response among the townspeople. They understand much more clearly the words of their leader, the baker Nastya, who urges them to fight to the last.
In the hope of finding bread, the hungry poor people smash the bishop's castle and kill its owner. But the bishop told the truth: the barns of the castle are empty. This means that the pogroms will continue and the next victims will be priests. Dying, the bishop gives Henry the key to the underground passage to the city. Heinrich is faced with a choice: “The poor will kill the priests - or Getz will kill the poor. Two hundred priests or twenty thousand people. " Having given the key to Getsu, Henry will betray the townspeople and save the servants of the Lord. Whose lives are more important? In desperation, Heinrich goes to the Getz camp.
Heinrich is brought to Getz; the priest thinks that the devil himself is in front of him, and he refuses to give the key. But Getz is sure that “the priest will betray”, he feels a kindred spirit in him. Like Getz, Heinrich is illegitimate; he tries to constantly do Good, he is full of love for people, but both he and the bloodthirsty Getz have the same result: evil and injustice.
A banker comes to Getsu and asks him not to destroy the city; in return, he offers Getsu a huge ransom. Getz refuses: he wants to capture the city "for the sake of Evil", for all Good has already been done by the Lord. Nastya comes to the camp. He asks Getz to become the head of the rebellious peasants, but this offer is also rejected by Getz. He is not interested in fighting aristocrats: "God is the only worthy enemy."
"I do Evil for the sake of Evil," Getz proudly declares, "all the others do Evil out of voluptuousness or self-interest." But this does not matter, Heinrich counters him, because it is "God wished that Good would become impossible on earth," and therefore, nowhere is there either Good or justice. "The Earth stinks to the very Stars!"
"So, all people do Evil?" - asks Getz. That's all, Heinrich answers him. Well, then he, Getz, will do Good. Getz makes a bet with Heinrich for a year and one day: during this period he undertakes to do exclusively Good ... And in order to finally "push God to the wall", Getz offers to play dice on the city. If he wins, he will burn the city, and God will be responsible for this, and if he loses, he will spare the city. Katerina, the mistress of Getz, whom he once raped, plays and wins. Getz leaves to do Good, Heinrich follows him - to judge the affairs of Getz himself.
Having taken over the ownership of his brother's lands, Gets distributes them to the peasants. But the peasants are afraid to take the master's land: they do not believe in the sincerity of Getz's intentions. Barons - neighbors of Getz beat him: after all, their peasants can demand that they also give up their possessions. Getz dodges blows, but does not resist.
Nastya comes to Getsu. He also asks him to keep the land for himself: "If you wish us well, sit quietly and do not start a change." A rebellion that broke out at the wrong moment is doomed to defeat in advance, Nastya wants to win, and for this she needs to properly prepare. But Getz does not heed him: he loved all people, and therefore he will distribute his lands and build the City of the Sun on them.
The peasants gather near the church. Getz appears. He asks the peasants why they still bring him a quitrent to the barn, when he clearly told everyone that there will be no quitrent or duties anymore. “For now, let's leave everything as it is,” the peasants answer him, because “everyone has their own place”. Here monks appear and, like fairground barkers, sell indulgences with jokes and jokes. Getz tries to stop them, but no one listens to him: the goods are in great demand.
A leper comes for indulgence. To prove his boundless love for people, Getz kisses him, but his kiss causes only disgust - both among the leper and among the peasants crowding around. But when a monk gives the leper absolution. everyone is delighted. "Lord, show me the way to their hearts!" - Getz exclaims in despair.
Heinrich appears. He is no longer a priest - he slandered himself, and he was deprived of the right to perform rituals. Now he, like a shadow, follows Getz. Heinrich informs Getz that Katerina is terminally ill. She loves Getz, but grace touched him, and he “gave Katherine a wallet and drove her away. That's what she dies from. " Trying to alleviate the suffering of Katerina, Getz declares that he takes all her sins upon himself. Rushing to the crucifix, he prays to Christ to allow him to wear the stigmata and, without waiting for an answer, he inflicts wounds on himself. Seeing the blood flowing down his hands, the peasants fall to their knees. They finally believed Getsu. “Today the kingdom of God begins for everyone. We will build the City of the Sun, ”Getz tells them. Katerina dies.
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In the village of Getza, universal love reigns, "no one drinks, no one steals", husbands do not beat their wives, parents - children. The peasants here are happy “not only for themselves, but also for everyone”, they feel sorry for everyone, do not want to fight even for their own happiness and are ready to die in prayer for those who will kill them.
Getz appears, then Nastya. A mutiny broke out, and Getz was to blame; he proved to the peasants that they "can do without priests, and now preachers of rage have appeared everywhere, they call for revenge." The rebels have no weapons, no money, no military leaders. Nastya invites Getz to lead the peasant army - he is also "the best commander in Germany." After all, the war will find him anyway. Getz hesitates. To agree is to "hang anyone just for the sake of an acrimony - right and wrong" again, to pay for victory with thousands of lives.
And Voeh Getz goes to the people “to save the world”, before leaving, ordering his peasants not to get involved in any fights: “If they start to threaten you, respond to threats with love. Remember, my brothers, remember: love will make the war recede. " Confident that it is God who guides his steps, he goes to fight in the name of love.
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Heinrich enters with flowers on his hat. He informs Getsu that the peasants are looking for him to kill. When asked how he knows this, Heinrich points to the devil, silently standing behind him. For some time now, this couple has been inseparable. Heinrich proves to Getsu that all the good that he did, in fact, turned into evil even greater than when he just did evil. For God doesn't care about him. "Man is nothing." In response, Getz informs him of his discovery, or, by his definition, "the greatest scam" - there is no God. And so he starts his life all over again. Shocked Heinrich, feeling his righteousness, dies. "The comedy of good ended in murder," says Getz.
Getz takes command of the army: he stabs the chief who refused to obey him, orders the deserters to be hanged. “So the kingdom of man on earth has begun,” he says to the frightened Nastya. Getz does not intend to retreat: he will make people in awe of him, since there is no other way to love them, he will be alone, since there is no other way to be with everyone. “There is a war - I will fight,” he concludes.