7 December 2020
Pearl Harbor Day
I am presently progressing, or plowing, through the translation of the first chapter of the Final Book, Book 7, of THE DAWN into L’AUBE. The point-of-view of this chapter has shifted more toward the lens of the U.S. Army Colonel Arthur Boucher Carmichael, the American who has been recast as agent Artur Boucher in Provence.
This subtle alteration, or transition, in the point of view is not a change that I, the Writer, consciously planned or was even aware of — until last night, as I translated Chapter 94. Artur Boucher, the Allied spy, and Guillaume de Vallon, the French aristocrat-turned-resister, have fled from Provence into the Cévennes because their lives became endangered through the arrest by the Gestapo of a French Communist “comrade” in Marseille. That forbidding mountainous region, les Cévennes, tucked away on the south-eastern edge of the Massif Central, is very justifiably called the Badlands of France. Only goodness and light, however, come to Artur and Guillaume.
That region historically served as a refuge for French Huguenots from the religious persecution that reigned after King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and proclaimed the Edict of Fontainebleau. One edict drove out the previous one, in the same way that one nail drives out the previous one in that quaint concept called Governance of the People.
Ah, the good old days, when one edict superseded the older one, instead of the decrees being frantically stacked atop one another, much like monotonous layers of greasy corrupt phyllo dough!
The golden oaks of the Cévennes during the autumn of 1943 give way to the frozen landscape of winter, thereby ushering in a Protestant Christmas in France. Blessed by liberty, by the magnificence of nature, and by the abiding warmth of amitié, those two men of the French Résistance can no longer resist the bounties and the beauty of the world that God hath wrought. They allow themselves to discover the heart-felt goodness of the gracious and humble people who have taken them into their rustic farmhouse. Artur and Guillaume realize the realities of those unsung heroes of ages past, present, and future.
I awoke this morning with the realization that this theme in this novel — of the countless unknown heroes who remain unknown and, thus, blessed — form a never-ending theme in life. “My colonel,” if I may be so bold as to call him My Colonel, he does not get enough of a say about many matters, weighty and otherwise, in THE DAWN. He’s not an exactly unsung hero, but Arthur does not sing often enough in the original book. There is, nonetheless, a much more powerful sense of the commanding presence of Artur in the French version, L’AUBE.
I cannot say, except to opine that Arthur, as Artur Boucher, is a stranger in what is, for him, a strange land. I emotionally needed to support my own main character in ways that I did not need to do during the penning of THE DAWN. The English language speaks forcefully enough for Colonel Carmichael.
I am sure that my Colonel appreciates my moral and emotional support in both editions of this epic novel. His world, the world he’d known and cherished, changed tumultuously in many ways, but especially on Pearl Harbor Day. I still weep upon encountering his take on the mess that America found itself in, on 7 December 1944.
Arthur is a man who, for me, represents the finest of manhood and of America, regardless of the era or the experience. In that sense, yes, Arthur is timeless, and so is America. He grants to Guillaume, the French aristocrat, the wisdom that he, Arthur, has learned through heartache, even heartbreak. And Guillaume is, as always, gracious in accepting this gift from a Westerner.
Below are the French, and then the English, excerpts from Chapter 94. We can all use a bit more of Arthur in our lives, and a lot more of his credo for life.
Ces hommes avaient appris beaucoup concernant le cœur humain pendant leur séjour dans cette fermette dans les Cévennes. Ils réalisèrent que même en temps de guerre ; et en dépit de l’occupation brutale et sanglante par l’ennemi ; et en même temps que la collaboration du régime de Vichy avec cet ennemi parfaitement vulgaire : la survie n’exigea pas l’abandon de votre cœur ou de n’importe quelles vertus qui y résidèrent. Ces hommes savaient que ces temps étaient ceux qui faisaient des rudes épreuves des cœurs et des âmes de l’humanité. Ils avaient néanmoins ressenti les bénédictions des cœurs et des âmes qui étaient en train de résister, sincèrement résister, doute et terreur et peur et haine.
Ils avaient connu trop de mois d’observer et d’apprendre à propos des gens qui s’agirent tellement librement à cause de malveillance putride que ces gens possédèrent ni cœur ni l’âme en péril de l'abandon. Les nazis, et les individus qui s’alignèrent sur eux et derrière eux, ils se sentirent en vie seulement lorsqu’ils furent vils de manière odieuse. Ces images avaient dominé le champ de vision de ces deux hommes. Pendant les huit semaines précédentes, Artur et Guillaume avaient vu l’autre côté du cœur humain, le domaine tendre mais résistant qui cherche et accepte la grâce divine.
La veille de Noël, Artur avait mentionné à Guillaume un autre verset de 1 Corinthiens, Chapitre 13. C’était le verset 13. Comme enfant, Artur avait appris par cœur ces mots. Il souvent les se rappela, et il les récitait tendrement à Guillaume avant des moments où ils s’endormirent :
« Et maintenant durent la foi, l’espérance, la charité, ces trois; mais le plus grand de ceux est la charité ».
These men had learned much about the human heart during their sojourn in this farmhouse in the Cévennes. They realized that even during wartime; and in spite of the bloody, brutal occupation by the enemy; and alongside the collaboration of the Vichy regime with this perfectly vulgar enemy: survival did not require the abandonment of one’s heart or of whatever virtues that resided there. These men knew that these were the times that surely tested the hearts and souls of mankind. Nevertheless, they had felt the blessings of the hearts and souls that were resisting, sincerely resisting, doubt and terror and fear and hatred.
They’d known too many months of witnessing and learning about people who acted so freely out of putrid malice that those people possessed neither heart nor soul to abandon. The Nazis, and the individuals who aligned themselves with them and behind them, only felt alive when they were abhorrently vile. These images had dominated the field of vision of these two men. Within the past eight weeks, Artur and Guillaume saw the other side of the human heart, the tender but resilient realm that seeks and accepts divine grace.
On the eve of Noël, Artur had mentioned to Guillaume another verse from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13. It was Verse 13. As a child, Artur had memorized these words. He often recalled them, and he quietly recited them to Guillaume before they fell asleep:
"And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”