Composing L’AUBE 2016
Book One: Camille
Admittedly, I wrote THE DAWN with the French sensibility, aspiring to one day translate it into French. It is possible that the French version is the original. At times, I complete a portion of translation and then return to the English text to modify it (improve it); the English version nearly always seems inferior in certain aspects. At other times, however, the flexibility of the English language more fittingly creates the mood and the cogent expression required for the characters. The British-English used in Book 2, Arthur, is yet another dimension to inhabit, and I hope that you will — one day, or night, or many days and nights — inhabit that world, as well as the world of Provence during World War II.
I find that the narration in the French is more powerful, more beautiful and much closer to the original conception in my mind of the imagery and the overall content of the book. There are verbal constructions and phrases that flow quite seamlessly from English into the French translation; other passages and portions of THE DAWN must be re-configured, or re-composed, to fit the French language as well as my conception of the novel.
It is somewhat astounding to me to realize how much more beautifully moving THE DAWN is in the French. L’AUBE causes me to become misty-eyed. THE DAWN brought tears to my eyes during the writing of certain scenes but more often it caused eye fatigue. I would say that the writing of THE DAWN took place more in my mind and heart; the composition of L’AUBE is from my soul.
The process of writing the English version of this novel required me to work constantly for three years. I did not have the time, or I did not take the time, to comprehend the quality of my writing. My thought process was something akin to: “Chapter 88 is finished. On to Chapter 89. And please don’t get in my way.”
I am now able to gauge the merit of my writing and, admittedly, the writing is masterful. The themes, motifs, and elements of the book are interwoven quite intricately and delicately. Its textures and scope amaze me. I am also amazed by the realization that this process of discovery is a vitally necessary part of a writer’s work and life: assessment, appreciation, perhaps even atonement. The highest fulfillment of writing is only achieved through filling the writer’s files — mental, emotional and spiritual — full of satisfaction and the sense of calm that comes from meeting the goal of “nailing it”!
On a strictly technical level, I quote this passage from THE DAWN:
“The French do not usually form adjectives and adverbs from their nouns. They instead string together a prepositional phrase, or two, along with the noun, to express the one-word modifier that the English so quickly create from a single noun and a suffix. In this instance, the moue, the pout, says it all while saying nothing at all.”
I rarely pull a pout while composing L’AUBE. Quite often, however, there is a hilarious laugh whenever I discover a French cliché that is far from cliché!
COMPOSING L’AUBE UPDATE
Book Two: Arthur
In early March 2017, I decided to come to an all-stop, an operational pause, a personal and professional halt in my translation of THE DAWN into L’AUBE. Something within me said that Arthur could not leave England yet for France. I left him on the front porch of that astoundingly aesthetic Arts-and-Crafts house in Chichester, West Sussex, and I decided to begin re-reading Le Rouge et le Noir by Stendhal. An assigned book in the Analyse de Texte class of Professeur Thibault, this novel was, I believed, worth a second try, at least for stylistic and grammatical purposes.
I have progressed at such a rapid rate through the Stendhal book that I realize I’ve learned all that I can from it, at least stylistically and grammatically. By Chapitre XI (Chapter 11), the plot became boring. Other than for my immense enjoyment in reading the French text aloud, this book is not of much use to me now. Julien and the married woman’s sighs and his cruel eyes have become predictable! If his hand reaches one more time for “la main blanche” of madame de Rênal, I am going to intervene and either slap it away or seize it! Make up your mind, woman!
My target re-start date of the arduous work is this September, perhaps after Labor Day, definitely after an eventfully fun summer. I know that Arthur Boucher Carmichael awaits me!
Book Three: Guillaume
It feels like an early spring here in northern Northern California as I begin the translation of Book Three of THE DAWN into French. The almond trees in mid-January are almost in bloom. How fitting for me to return to Provence from the cold, damp, foggy winter climes of Chichester in West Sussex, England, 1940.
It was a long haul for Arthur and me and Book Two, beginning with the translation of Book Two in late summer 2016. I took time off for many things, including the penning of a new novel (The Point of the Sword).
I kept pushing back to get “it” done. It was with immense joy that I finished the final review of the last chapter of this Book just a few days ago. I also keep improving with the translation. I can now do it while watching the Toronto Maple Leafs and the San Jose Sharks!
I feel glad to leave England and return to France. Even if Dear Reader dumped him long ago (May 2013 Essay), Guillaume awaits me!
Hockey Night in Provence
It’s autumn in California, and in Toronto —
and in Provence.
This autumn 2018, the French translation of BOOK 3, Guillaume, proceeds apace, along with the fast pace of the skates of the San Jose Sharks and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The past year of letting-go-of-Marleau has come to a merciful end. I am now fully enjoying the new, young, dynamic San Jose team, coached by the firm but compelling leadership of Pete DeBoer. Steady pressure is the operative approach. This strategy works for me too!
This year, my traditional hockey-spectating is not business-as-usual, but I am working with it:
Due to NHL Local Blackout Rules, my viewing of any San Jose Sharks game is delayed. I therefore use the time difference to my advantage. I watch the Sharks game 48 hours later, on my schedule. I employ the same tele-visual viewing method with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The happy absence of commercial interruptions and the wonderful absence of any Period Intermissions have speeded up an already fast game to a view-time of approximately 1 hour.
Those late-night shoot-outs are a thing of the past!
It’s always exciting for me to watch The Shark-Veterans: Captain Joe Pavelski, “Pickles” Vlasic, and Alternate Captain Logan Couture. Defenseman Brent Burns is a bit less flamboyant without his Man-Bun this year, but the season is still young for this Alternate Captain!
Tomáš Hertl, still baby-faced at 25, and his family in the Czech Republic are waiting for that Stanley Cup too. Goalie Martin Jones (“Joner”) is doing his quiet, level-gloved best to help make that dream come true.
Defenseman “Jumbo” Joe Thornton, whom I call Thumbo, has returned to the ice after a series of injuries. During his first game back from injuries this season, he scored the tying goal against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Way over yonder in Toronto, Canada, the Maple Leafs are super-charged with Auston Matthews (presently on Injured Reserve), Alternate Captain John Tavares, Jake Gardner, and Nazem Kadri. It’s not surprising for me to see Patrick Marleau wearing the A - as an Alternate Captain — of his Leafs. Coach Babcock keeps making the right decisions!
Keeping track of two NHL teams keeping score has significantly aided my progress with composing L’AUBE. I am motivated to keep an ever more resolute but compelling watch over Guillaume de Vallon as he leaves behind the life of an aristocrat and forges a new identity as a French resister.
I do believe that Guillaume would have made one sensational forward!
He is most unlike that player, “La Rondelle” who is all over the place!
And just who is La Rondelle?
The story of La Rondelle came to me more than a few years ago while I was watching a television show about the early days of broadcasting professional ice hockey. A young man, living in the north-northeastern United States, was listening one night to a hockey game — broadcast on the radio in Canadian French from Montreal, Canada.
This hockey fan wanted to know who was that player, La Rondelle: He was on the ice all the time, and he was all over the place.
Of course, he was!
“La rondelle” means the puck in French.
Guillaume is not all over the place. He’s just in France, with a brief trip to London to meet le général de Gaulle. Guillaume does return one day to France, to Roussillon where he surprises Camille with some crèvecœur chicks.
Book 3, Guillaume, is followed by the final book of Volume 1 of THE DAWN/L’AUBE. This section is entitled Operation Nottingham — or Op Nott, as the nickname has it. I am hoping to complete the translation of Book 3 by the end of the Games of Elimination, or the Stanley Cup Finals!
Next year, I hope to see either — or both — of my favorite NHL teams go all the way to the Stanley Cup! Until then, it’s Hockey Night in Provence!
13 February 2019
There are times, on a rainy Wednesday such as this one, when the rain and gray skies become overwhelming. And the Day Off from translation that I’d promised myself goes out the rainy-day-window.
Dear Husband was at his office job in Sacramento; he received some email updates from me on my job in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The following is a running commentary that gives sights and insights into my process of writing, translating, and thinking during the composition of Chapitre 23:
To Dear Husband:
Cold and wet here. The warmth of the morning is gone!
Propane tanks being filled today. Chance is on the small sofa barking. I am doing translation.
To Dear Writer-Wife:
Very dark, cold and rainy here. The clouds have sucked all the warmth away. I hope his barking is not too distracting. The sad part is it isn’t even our propane tank!
To Dear Husband:
Oh, it was a real gathering of the trucks! The propane truck was here, a delivery truck, and the mail truck!
Chance has calmed down. He ought to be exhausted. I am figuring out if I still know how to say “tip your hat” in French (incliner le chapeau). Hat etiquette seems to be an old custom!!!
I know that I used the word — satchel — in THE DAWN to try not to say “suitcase” too much. It’s now a Britishism for school-bag, which a satchel clearly was not during World War II! I’ll have to change “satchel” in the English version of this chapter.
I really can’t wait until I get to Book 4 and
try to tackle the “duffel bag” of Artur!
Try to avoid one problem in English and you get 3 in French!!
Sacoche — is a saddlebag (horse). I will remember that one!
To Dear Writer-Wife:
That is a lot of business for a rainy day. And yes, that tank in front belongs to the neighbor.
At least you figured out the “tip your hat”! That is progress indeed.
To Dear Husband:
Now that I know the fedora that Pierre Richarde wears is a “Borsalino” made in Italy, I guess tipping the hat is “vieilli” along with wearing one!
I guess Jean Moulin wore a Borsalino too!
Oh gosh, phrases and expressions that I learned 30-40 years ago are now considered old-fashioned (un peu vieilli) by Word Reference.
Very bad for any language to consider some standard 20th century terms as almost archaic!
I am glad that I have insisted on using them!!!! Very Victor Hugo!
To Dear Writer-Wife:
I am glad too. You have a duty to keep some of these phrases alive! And they are much better than the so-called modern versions — what does Word Reference know anyway?
To Dear Husband:
Word Reference knows every literary term that I automatically use and then double-check and find out that I am often more accurate than they! I really know the “dated” literary words!
My Friend in Provence knew that I know the real French of the post-WWII era. Without realizing it, I was schooled in that school of French thought by French exiled to America!
I am having to go back into the first few chapters for descriptions used in this chapter (23) and I see the details are very sparingly given. On purpose. The pace of the novel really was set just right in the beginning, and then it develops with more speed and depth and detail.
I knew what I was doing!!
Let us hope, Dear Reader, that I continue to know what I am doing, on this rain-soaked day, and every day!
Book 4 - Operation Nottingham: Op Nott
Ah ! Comment Artur me manque !
Oh! How I miss Arthur!
In French, missing someone is a matter of putting the onus on the other person. During the time that I was away from Arthur, engaging in the translation of Book 3, GUILLAUME, Arthur was the one doing without me.
The French love of symmetry reigns supreme here. Les Français sense these conditions of want, need and deprivation in a properly balanced manner. Because if Arthur is not lacking me, I certainly do not intend to lack Arthur!
Book 4 is Operation Nottingham. It presents the parachuted entry of SOE agent Arthur Boucher Carmichael in 1941 into wartime France. The event is quite mystical and a bit muddy. Arthur is now Artur Boucher, a veterinarian of small animals in Provence.
He is in for some fascinating moments and some unexpected touches of kismet and some very direct brushes with fate. He spends a lot of time trying to figure out who is in charge of the resisters, there in Provence. He spends a lot of time trying to figure out Provence, France, and even himself.
Artur finally figures it all out. By that time, he, and I, are on the way to Pour La Victoire, Book 5 of L’AUBE!
Ici Londres —
Voilà France . . .
Volume II - Book Five:
Pour La Victoire
Many are the pleasures of a novelist when she discovers, or re-discovers, elements of her writing that she had long forgotten. Pour La Victoire, For Victory, is the title of the first book of Volume II of L’AUBE, or THE DAWN. I embark upon this volume with jubilation.
The ending of the previous volume, c’est-à-dire, the final chapters of Volume I, recalled many memories for me. Those months of my life during 2010-2011 took place in an America that felt a lot less live-able than it does in the here and now. I’d quite intentionally blocked-out any attention to The News, and I soon realized that the less attention that I paid to any “News”, the more accurately I ascertained current events and life in America — and in the world.
The same truism holds true today. The world “outside”, as concocted and presented to the public by a cynical Media, is a dismal distortion of reality. I’d always believed that sad state of affairs to be the case. During 2010-2011, while I wrote Volume II of THE DAWN, I confirmed that bizarre “reality”.
Back then, I inhabited the world of Camille Richarde and Arthur Boucher Carmichael, of Guillaume de Vallon, of Madame Charbonnet, and of the Marquet family: Pascal, Marie, Julien, Corinne, little Lisette Noelle, and the oldest child, Gustave, a prisoner-of-war in a labor camp in Bulson, Germany. I struggled with the dastardly deeds of cowards who wore uniforms of virtue, and I exulted in the nobility of heart of the brave women and the brave men whose names were lost amidst the vortex of history.
I chose to steer this grand ship of fiction into the port of e-publishing over Labor Day Weekend, 2012, when the world revolving around so many of the people whom I knew and loved was jeopardized by forces beyond their control; but there were also the forces of faith and patience within their control. And I steadfastly refused to believe that the best days are over for America, or for France, or for Great Britain.
I still hold those tenets very
close to my heart. Camille begins Pour La
Victoire, the first book of Volume II, in a hauntingly dramatic setting
wherein she protects a single egg newly laid by her Andalusian hen — from hundreds of large starlings and their loud raucous cries. She then tends to a man whom she no longer recognizes as her beloved
aristocrat. He arrives at the maison d’été with 3 Crèvecœur chicks, and the acceptance that his life can no longer be
separated from that of Camille. She has
already faced this agonizing fact, but she will not stand between him and his
destiny. She instead helps to lead him
My voyage through composing the French version of THE DAWN is, each and every day, an affirmation of my years of creating this glorious story that unfolds like the forbidden Tricolore against the backdrop of war, death, love, birth, history, and the illusion of peace. This compelling voyage pits honor against perfidy, heroism against treachery, light against darkness.
On a more cheerful, and perhaps comical note, I find heart-warming tidbits in my fiction that express my stalwart defense of language — in any tongue! A depiction of the Marquet baby reveals that she is not yet mobile and could not yet speak adult language. She is nonetheless “quite vocal, offering all of the pitches and the sounds of baby talk which were part of her panoply of playing and watching others around her. . .”
When I began to home-school my children during the late 1990s, I had to fill out all kinds of forms and paperwork, justifying my choice. The paperwork proceeded apace as the years passed by. It became so onerous at some point that I decided to bury the Educrats in their own paperwork!
One form in particular that I recall was an administrative inquisition into the language(s) spoken by my children. In response to the question as to what was the first language spoken by each child, I wrote:
From the mouths of children can come the most startling of truths. It is my hope that from the pen of this writer the most startling of truths appeared, in L’AUBE, with the purity and honesty of baby-talk that have arrived at adult wisdom.
2 May 2020
Sherman’s March to the Sea
I continue with translation of THE DAWN into L’AUBE, at a pace that Dear Husband calls Sherman’s march to the sea.
In reality, I work at home, as I have been doing for decades, with even greater efficiency. There are people “out-there”, however, who have written to me with concern, probably because I live in the USA, and even more, because I live in California.
My responses are typical of someone trying to insert reality into a misconception, although I am aware that the view of America in places such as Lithuania must be a wild ride through reality.
The days go by and it seems as if time is very fluid. But soon all of this panic over the pandemic will be over. California Governor went a bit hysterical over predictions that did not come true.
In reality, I have spent much time reviewing the past and have determined that human nature, and human behavior, follow a much more established pattern than does the course of an infectious disease. The sauve-qui-peut mentality is a guaranteed money-grabber for the people who spread fear; the stalwart persist in their quiet anonymity; and the confused uncertain majority vacillate between fear and hope.
I have wondered at times during the past month if that many Americans, and Californians in particular, became convinced that sickness and death had been outlawed, regulated out of existence and otherwise litigated into a state of suspended animation — all because of the Gene Map, DNA-will-save-us-all, and the Personal Repair Kits that were to be distributed by the Nanny State.
Fear is a wretched sensation, but it is part of living, part of life. Courage usually rides alongside of it, if the Rider understands the facts of life, the basic facts of life. The School of Life has been in session during these initial months of 2020, and the home-school teacher in me dares to say that a lot of Americans have earned high marks, while the usual suspects keep doing their thing, mucking it up for the rest of us.
As I proceed, like Sherman marching to the sea, or, as Dear Husband also put it, making mincemeat out of this translation, I try to apprehend the apprehensions that some people hold so tenaciously. For certain people, fear, suspicion and doubt are their best friends. For many others, they are their worst enemies.
The next book of THE DAWN is entitled: La Résistance.
Resistance to fear is among the weapons used in a long-ago and far-away world that knew true treachery and even truer heroism.
I look forward to opening the book on that one, come September.
Late September 2020
Book Six - La Résistance:
Turning the Corner
La Résistance is the term that was used most accurately, historically and fundamentally for the covert internal fight against the occupying enemy, the Nazis Germans, as well as against the Vichy regime within France. There was also a Resistance in each of the other conquered nations of Europe during World War II, including in Nazi Germany.
The members of the Dutch Resistance of World War II valiantly saved lives, even as their own world came shattering and crumbling down around them, and for a long time afterward. I know personal stories of the incredible and stubborn courage of the Dutch people. Those detailed tales still bring tears to my eyes. The adjective, bull-headed Dutch, has been used as a precise descriptor for the type of will that did not break in the face of treachery and evil.
The expression, The Underground, was not spoken by the leaders of these groups and movements, which ultimately became organized military units, to liberate France. I did not find one usage of the term throughout all of my exhaustive historical research. General de Gaulle certainly never spoke the word.
“The French Underground” is most likely a term coined in Hollywood, referencing an American-ism dating back to the Underground Railroad that was the covert fight of Americans to free African-American slaves from their bondage in this nation.
There also existed a French Resistance during World War I, or the Great War. Anytime an enemy physically, or economically, or even emotionally, invades a sovereign country that is capable of defending itself as a nation, the word, Resistance, is not merely employed among the patriotic citizenry. That word comes to life with sincere meaning and passion and purpose, noble purpose. The current crops of cowards tossing that term around like cheap coins of propaganda deserve to have their heads shaved.
La Résistance turned an incredibly difficult and long corner in the history of France, in the history of Europe, and in the history of the world during 1943. The many scattered resistance groups of surveillance and intelligence operations, sabotage and military force were coalescing, gradually, but inexorably into The Resistance — as the war progressed toward an armed fight of citizens against the enemy in what was then Occupied France and Vichy France. Operation Torch, launched on the night of 8 November 1942, prompted the immediate occupation of the Free Zone, Vichy France, by the Nazis that same month. All of France, l’entière France, including the island of Corsica, became Occupied France.
The whole shooting match of Nazis — soldiers, bureaucrats and Gestapo — marched their smelly filthy black boots into the Free Zone, stripping away whatever sense of liberty those French had enjoyed since the Fall of France in May 1940.
In THE DAWN, Comte St. Guillaume de Vallon must flee his Château Vallon, an inevitability that U.S. Army Colonel Arthur Boucher Carmichael, recast in France as SOE agent Artur Boucher, has not only foreseen, but has cautiously helped this French aristocrat to prepare for, emotionally as well as physically.
By 16 November, this Allied invasion of French North Africa had been transformed into a major campaign victory. The Vichy- and Axis- “controlled” French colonies of North Africa were liberated from Nazi domination and placed under the command of the Allies. The Free French, les Forces françaises libres, had been joined by turncoat Vichy forces of about 60,000, along with courageous colonial soldiers fighting for a free France.
Militarily speaking, the Free French Forces came into their own, on French soil, French colonial soil, as l’Armée d’Afrique joined them in August 1943 to form l’Armée française de la Libération. With the stage so triumphantly set militarily in French North Africa, General Charles de Gaulle in May 1943 was able to jettison his headquarters in London, along with the Anglo Saxons, and establish his official headquarters in Algiers. He became the one and only head of the French Committee of National Liberation, the FCNC. From July 1943 onward, the Forces françaises libres were more accurately termed « les forces de la libération », the forces of liberation.
Political intrigues and brinksmanship created and fomented by U.S. President Roosevelt and directed toward General de Gaulle took a turn for the worse during 1943. Roosevelt insulted this Free French leader, in as many ways as this wily man could have devised, at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. This Allied strategy session became a snake-pit of internecine hostility and rancor between those two Allied leaders.
Artur Boucher becomes aware of the gravity of the petty insults and indignities from his President toward this gallant yet haughty founder and leader of the Free French. Artur consequently worries about the adverse effects of those moral injuries on the deepening trust and friendship between himself and Guillaume.
The relationship between the United States and France was forever-after marred by the demeaning ways in which this U.S. President treated the French patriot who stood alone, and tall — against history, the enemy, tradition, and l’État de France — to liberate his patrie and to point her in the direction of the future. I wrote THE DAWN with that somber knowledge in mind; and I have translated this novel into the French language with that somber knowledge even more in mind.
Desperation was despicably heavy in the air during this year of 1943 in France. The Milice, la Milice, was the political paramilitary arm of the Vichy government. These voyous, or thugs, were diabolically recruited in January 1943 by an increasingly inept and faltering Vichy regime slavishly working toward a German France and Hitler-Europe.
Philippe Petain, Victor of Verdun and former national hero, had been hand-picked by Hitler as the puppet Head-of-State for this gouvernement fantoche. This 87-year-old man was declining rapidly into dementia, thereby granting, as had been ghoulishly planned, even more power to Pierre Laval, the real power behind the phony throne. The ignoble Laval put into motion his evil stratagems with even more wicked intent.
An SS-officer and Frenchman named Darland led this crew of bloodthirsty cutthroats as the Vichy regime tried to put an ever-tighter stranglehold on the French citizenry and on the French Resistance. Basically, the Vichy toadies were attempting to save their own necks by proving to Hitler, through criminals and traitors and the assassins of more and more French people, that they, the Vichy men, could still be counted on to secure France for Nazi rule. Like goes to like. Thus went Vichy straight toward Nazi Germany.
The Milice were human hunters of Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, armed bullies who stopped at nothing to bag their prey, for money. Hired killers of French citizens became the force of Vichy law in Nazi France in 1943. It was a good time for an aristocrat resister called Guillaume de Vallon to “go to ground”, and he does, with the able assistance of Artur Boucher.
Camille now fully understands the nature of her love for this Frenchman, more deeply than ever, as she also realizes her profond and passionate love for this foreigner, l’étranger, who journeyed into Provence to lead the covert fight for liberation. Those illicit activities can only endanger the loved ones of this Frenchwoman. Her initial and deep hostility toward Artur turns the corner toward an ever-lasting love as she belatedly surrenders her heart to this never-ending journey that has been her love for Guillaume de Vallon.
Once those corners are turned, emotionally, militarily, politically, morally and historically — there is no turning back, for anyone in l’AUBE, or elsewhere.
4 December 2020
Book Seven - L’AUBE
The Day of Deliverance, arrives, at last, enfin en France, first in Provence, and, then, within a mere matter of days, in Paris. Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Provence began 15 August 1944. The Liberation of Paris occurred during the very dangerous days of 19-25 August. This southern invasion of France, ultimately, fulfills the promise of liberation from the Nazis that began with the Allied invasion on those beaches of Normandy in June 1944.
Dragoon, the lesser-known of the two major Allied invasions of France, yields le Jour de Délivrance. That day of liberation of the patrie from Nazi Germans marks the summit of the long, hard climb, the journey of rebellion that General Charles de Gaulle and his Forces françaises libres undertook during the previous four years, the dark years of France.
In L’AUBE, those days that transpire in the middle of August 1944 alter forever the lives of Camille Richarde; her daughter, Gabrielle; her father, Pierre; and her biens-aimés, Guillaume de Vallon and Artur Boucher. The capital city of Paris will soon be liberated, but the rest of France, the provinces, will not be fully free of the Nazis for months to come. Artur had wryly and presciently confided to Guillaume that the Germans were noisy coming into France, and they would be even louder on their way out. And just as deadly.
That winter of 1944, the Germans forces took to the Ardennes yet again to attempt the sneaky last gamble by Hitler to win this savage war. The Wehrmacht would completely surprise the Allies in the Ardennes by launching the final Nazi offensive. The Battles of the Bulge raged from 16 December 1944 until 25 January 1945. Victory in Europe, VE Day, on 8 May 1945 was the rousing celebration of the formal acceptance by Allied commanders of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allied armed forces. By then, Hitler was dead. He killed himself after having ordered the slaughters of millions of innocent lives. The German High Command was left to deal with that mess.
The formal Battle for Paris ended on 25 August with the written surrender of the occupying German garrison by General von Choltitz to the Free French General Leclerc. This Prussian aristocrat refused to destroy Paris, either by burning it or blowing it up, or both, thereby disobeying and greatly displeasing his insane Fuhrer.
The French Resistance now included armed members of the French Forces of the Interior, or FFI. That enormous force of the Free French, along with the adept, ardent and expert assistance of citizen-Parisians, employed the cherished tactic of the time-honored, time-tested barricades. The barricades were built, this time, to liberate Paris from the occupying Nazis. By this date in 1944, the French riot, l’émeute, did not merely constitute a doctrine. The armed riot was the treasured tradition by which the French survived oppression. When it comes to a riot, or even social protest, the French know how to do it, with style and flair and unforgettable images.
The sacrifices of those French patriots in Paris became profound during those hellish days and nights of the Liberation of Paris. Estimates vary according to categorization, and there is typically a detailed categorization among the French; but the death toll during that siege from 19-25 August — among the French Resistance, comprised of men and women — was nearly 2,000. That number is much higher than that for the militarily armed French Forces of the Interior.
The history of Paris, and of France, has given way to myths about that day, and has faded from memories, for the best of reasons — the élan that always pushes any person on toward survival after a trauma — and for the worst of reasons — the rush to push the ghastly past as far back into the past as possible and deem it dead, and thus, not worthy of discussion. That history, however, is never dead. The mists of time cannot conceal the heroism and the heroes of any nation.
From those mists of time, 24-25 August 1944, there may still be heard and seen and revered the newly liberated citizens of Paris, erupting follement, madly, wildly, in the Place de la Concorde, at l’Arc de Triomphe and throughout Paris. Their voices rise anew, from amidst the lingering chaos of patriotic sniper gunfire aimed from behind those barricades; from behind those magnificent plane trees; from behind l’Arc de Triomphe; from windows everywhere; from amidst the fierce fighting by the soldiers of the FFI; from amidst the lobbing of Molotov cocktails, hurled down from upstairs windows of old and architecturally exquisite buildings; from amidst the citizenry taunting and jeering Nazi soldiers captured by members of the French Resistance; from amidst furious joys and copious tears and sobbing fears; from those immortal cries of “Vive de Gaulle” and “Vive la France” : Paris is Paris again, à nouveau.
Le général Charles de Gaulle returns on 25 August to Paris, his Paris, in his role as the President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic. That next day, arriving triumphantly in Paris are the 2e DB, the French 2nd Armored Division, commanded by General Philippe Leclerc; and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, led by General Raymond Barton; along with other Allied units.
Le drapeau tricolore is unfurled, everywhere. The French, tearfully, begin to emerge from their dark years. They will continue to do so, secretly and intimately, during many years, even decades to come. Too many of those savage memories will be hidden, suppressed, almost forgotten. For the truth, of any matter, but particularly of matters of the heart, is never lost, or silenced, or forgotten.
The reminders, the souvenirs, of the Dark Years will always be there, in France, no matter how often, how hard, how vigilantly and how vainly politicians attempt to explain them away, excuse them, apologize for them, equivocate them, relativize them, memorialize them in war museums that, in the quintessential French way, silently state:
The past is buried now, and forgotten.
For the very same reasons that the horrors and the grim memories of the Great War were always unnaturally very present with the French after that war, and between the wars, entre les guerres — the unspoken and unconfessed atrocities and shame of the Occupation and World War II penetrated, like a miasma, the decades of post-World-War II France. The craven politicians of France waited for enough time to elapse so that the Dark Years no longer had to be mentioned, publicly, or privately. Once de Gaule was dead, those dark years would die with him.
The French who so courageously took part in World War II, in the traumas of the Occupation, in the Liberation of Paris, in the Liberation of France, were, hopefully, sufficiently buried, along with their knowledge of the abominations that had pervaded France before, during, and even after the Dark Years. Along with the rushed interment of those abominations were buried the heroism, the valor, and the quiet faith of many thousands of French people who are no longer with us.
It is a repugnant dishonor to the patriotic dead to regard their sacrifices as part of a by-gone era that is best thought of as by-gone. The past has a cruel and vicious way of returning to the present, if only to remind people of the horrors of any past. History is not disposable; neither is honor.
The price in terms of lives lost during the Occupation in France would never be fully counted. One reason for that inadequate accounting is the desire, almost a compulsion, to put the past in the past, as if it never happened. Another reason, one that is diametrically and morally opposed to the first one, is the fact that one cannot tabulate the blood, sweat and tears, and the hopes, desires, and dreams that were surrendered by countless French citizens to the noble fight to liberate one’s homeland. Those lessons of the past were thereby truncated from ever enriching the future because of the evils of expediency that are always evil and rarely expedient.
By 1940, la France, la douce France, had become a victim of her own unwitting undoing by entrusting herself to a cadre of corrupt politicians entre les guerres. So many of those feckless, venal elected officials profited mightily from the grandeur of their own nation before they abandoned her, and then betrayed her to the invading Germans. Heroes were hard to find in 1940. They’re just as hard to find today, but one nonetheless must keep looking for them. The villain always counts on the search being abandoned by the fatigued in spirit, the woeful heart, the cynical soul.
Many of the warnings of General Charles de Gaulle went unheeded by France after he died in 1970. The decades then passed by, and passed France by, while she sought to keep up with the modernity that is composed largely of myth. France must have her myths. That necessity is not, in and of itself, a menace to any nation. It is the nature of the myth, its inherent nature, and its consequences, inevitable and unintended, that so definitively determines the degree of honor or dishonor engendered by a myth.
France had been desperately clinging to her sense of honor, even as men of dishonor besmirched their patrie, and ushered in the Fall of France. In some ways, it was quite easy for Hitler and the Nazis to seize a nation that had lost so much faith in herself. The Nazis then used France, and her Occupation, for many wretched reasons. One was an object lesson to other nations, in Europe, and elsewhere, that survival at the hands of a psychopath is possible if you quickly and silently submit to his dehumanizing of your own soul. That vile extortion of essential dignity is the only message of any bully to its intended victim. The coward does not realize that the human soul is immortal, and belongs to the Lord, not to a thuggish overlord.
Such a corrosive sense of survival is a painful and punitive burden for any nation to bear, for any human to endure. The men, women, and children of Occupied France and Vichy France suffered humiliations in ways that were unspeakable, and so far too many of them were unspoken. That solemnified silence among a numbed citizenry was subsequently used, après la guerre, by devious politicians for their advantage, not for the benefit of a liberated France. The Communists then reinforced, expanded and re-invented the cruel punishments meted out to any nation — and to any individual — which dared to live, not merely survive, or exist.
Faith, not fear; and hope, not despair, win the day, and win the night in that endless fight that is always a grossly unfair fight — between a sniveling, gutless, heartless oppressor and the good-hearted intrepid souls who seek to live, to see the light of dawn, and to thrive in the radiance of freedom. That ennobling light of truth awaits France. For la France, her dark years have not fully been faced, and, thus, overcome.
Those sorrowful truths must be met with all of the fervent faith in France that propelled Charles de Gaulle to board that small plane on the morning of 17 June 1940. With anguish, he committed that potentially treasonous act of ardent heroism, as he took that private flight from France to London, and thereby exiled himself for four years while he fought to save the dignity of France, while he fought to save France.
L’aube, the dawn, is the light that can illuminate the future of any person, and of any nation, that seeks solace in truth, and refuses the garish lure of illusions. The world today is not all that different in many ways from the cataclysmic sphere of 1940. In that long-ago world, evil men and wicked women cleverly distorted images and voices to deceive the human heart. Inevitably, those miscreants failed in their power-mad quests to control the lives of other people. The cost to live in liberty was horrific, but, to quote Mr. Thomas Paine, a rebel with the most glorious of causes:
What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.
The renaissance, the rebirth, of France awaits the dawn of the new era, an epoch that is already shining with serenity upon a world that still believes in truth, justice, honor and, the most highly esteemed of virtues, liberty. In L’AUBE, Camille Richarde, Guillaume de Vallon, and Arthur Boucher Carmichael dynamically take part in that glorious quest for freedom. Their lives become emblems of the valiant fight to preserve liberty, and to build a future that is truly alive with hope and courage.
À l’aube, with the dawn, those fictional characters awoke to truth and love and duty and honor. They shall live forever, in my heart, because of all that they taught me — about truth and love and duty and honor — and about life and love and art.