Micronia, Land of the Spree, Home of the Knave

In a single week in Micronia, events untoward press in so thick and fast that one can scarcely keep keep up with the Fanta-Scienza of it all, as our Italian friends would say.

Those living in France, particularly those in the Upper-Middle Classes who WILL carry on savaging their mind by reading MSM, fondly imagine France being steered, genteel-like of course, by PLUs (People Like Us), i.e., dream-boat under-forties, captained by a slim, smartly set up matinée idol called E Macron or Micron. The latter, being allegedly committed to a “fairy-tale marriage” with his former school-teacher, the seventy-year old, mini-skirt wearing Brigitte Trogneux, teetering on stiletto heels 24/7.

The country is now known as Micronia, home of the Knave.

To set the tone for the rejoicings, I invite the reader to examine, closely, and think about the implications of these slightly earlier photographs and videos, which have most likely never appeared in the US or other foreign press.

To wit:

Micron, posing with self-acknowledged, and scantily clad, hoodlums in Guyana.

The Elysée Palace turned into a discothèque, 2018.

The same, with view of Brigitte Trogneux and E. Macron in the crowd:

Micron, wild-eyed Amok Time at the Qatar World Cup 2022:

Micron, petting and stroking a French soccer star at Qatar 2022:

In an especially repellent scene, the mini-skirted Brigitte Trogneux with disabled athletes in bathing suits. Fresh, or rather chilly meaning to the term “making sport”:

Confirmed by the “fact-checkers”: the weird and extremely costly Elysée Palace redecoration is NOT a hoax:

Brigitte Trogneux flogging state property, items from the Mobilier National (equivalent of the National Trust) for a foundation she chairs.

Which brings us to the latest update.

Subsidized by public funds since the 17th Century, the Paris Opera Ballet is one of the Western world’s oldest theatrical institutions. State-educated at the Opera School since the reign of Louis XIV, its artists are respected civil servants, engaged for life (they draw a pension at 42), and who enjoy a status akin to the diplomatic. However, as the country has fallen under the Micronian axe – McKinsey, Blackrock, and related US and UK defence-industry fronts – the entire public sector has been taken down. Over the past decade, the Paris Opera has seen its subsidies slashed, and is now wont to courting private-sector funds in ever-more undignified ways.

Despite attempts by various municipal councilors to block AIRBnB, the Silicon Valley slicksters have succeeded in voiding Paris of all affordable housing, and will henceforth offer tourists a chance at sleeping in a Paris Opera balcony at night.

The “best” is yet to come.

On Sotheby’s Auctioneer’s, there suddenly appeared this month a photograph of principal dancer Hugo Marchand, in what some might think a suggestive pose, with the heading “Inside the skin of a principal dancer” (sic). In pidgin English, Sotheby’s text goes on: “Follow Hugo Marchand, Étoile dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet, for a day. From the morning dance class to the show, from backstage to the preparation in the dressing room, you will live an unforgettable day in the daily life of an Étoile, and leave with a pair of signed ballet slippers. Experience valid for two people. Bidding starts at 20,000-30,000 Euro.”

And here we have principal dancer Germain Louvet, also being flogged, though for less (kept his shirt on?).

Despite much protest, the auction, set up by l’Association pour le Rayonnement de l’Opéra de Paris (AROP) went forward, flogging a day with Gustavo Dudamel, and the baritone Ludovic Teizier as well, plus (taxpayer funded) costumes. Total : 1.6 million Euro.

One wonders how much Commission Sotheby’s siphoned off for ridiculing public life in this way.

Meanwhile, out on the streets, on February 2nd, in the latest of an interminable list of splendid Ministerial buildings and taxpayer-funded property tossed to private sharks, a French Website reports that the Minister for Universities and Research has ordered the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) to sell to two private property developers, Vinci and Kaufmann & Broad, an exceptional ensemble known as the Pavillon Bellevue, built in 1843 and home to the celebrated dancer Isadora Duncan between 1913 and 1927.

As it happens, the site is now the National Institute for Sciences of the Universe headquarters, and holds advanced materiel and equipment including machine-tools that weigh several tons. Not basket-weaving courses, in other words. As the developers are being offered the site at well under market rate, the CNRS’ Director rejected the deal, in reaction to which the Ministry has issued the CNRS with an expulsion order, effective 15th March.

An amusing meme is now doing the rounds : it shews President Putin on the phone, ringing Micron: “I shall destroy France,” he bellows down the phone. “Don’t bother, man,” replies Micron, “I have dealt with it.”

Moufid Azmaïesh writes from France.

Win or Die: The Whites on the Big Screen

At the beginning of this year, the first film production of Puy du Fou, Vaincre ou mourir (Win or Die), was released. And what have we heard from the critics? An extreme right-wing, fundamentalist, reactionary, anti-republican (horresco referens), hateful and ideological film. Musty France, the bottom of the rotten barrel. The relentless criticism of Libération further adds so much vitriol that it passes for being funny. These hack-writers carry out their vile orders, driven by a hatred of the Catholic religion, along with a progressive left-wing ideology of the narrowest kind. Their frivolous and superficial agitation seems to appear like a devil thrown into the font or a vampire shrinking from garlic. So, it’s a pleasure to see this film, for the entertainment, certainly, but also to give the middle finger to these paragons of good taste and opinion.

If this film disturbs the media and cultural fauna and flora, it is mainly because it contrasts radically with the current production. The long agony of a French cinema, a slot machine for the small screen, subsidized, petty bourgeois, for easy-consumption, never ceases to churn out painful films, using the same ideas and the same ideology. And sure enough—during the trailers, two films, before the screening, were like pulling teeth. The first one, Léo et moi (Leo and Me) by Victoria Bedos, tells how a teenager, in love with the new boy in her class, tries to approach him during a party by dressing up as a boy. Léo becomes friends with the transvestite and much more, as he falls in love with her. Questions of gender, choice of sexuality, confusion of feelings and identities are all part of the story. And then, Un Homme heureux (A Happy Man), where Luchini, learns that his wife, Catherine Frot, has just changed sex to become a man. And that’s it.

There’s also nothing much to say about Têtes givrées (Frost Heads), either, in which Clovis Cornillac plays a teacher who goes to save a glacier with his students, to fight against global warming—the Ministry of Ecological Transition validated this fi;m. Then, there’s the latest Asterix, entertainment for vegetative underdogs, gorged with filthy inculture and lukewarm Coca-Cola, coming in at a bloated budget of 65 million euros.

Between all this, there is Vaincre ou mourir (Win or Die). This film, without a big budget, without massive promotion, is good entertainment and nice propaganda. For a part of the film, however, something seemed to be wrong—there were no hysterical misandrist crazy women, no soy-boys in overalls, no one-legged black transsexuals, and no crazy non-binary interlopers. On the contrary, the women were as elegant and beautiful as they were virile and warlike; the brave and strong men of the Vendée had their orchids well-cultivated.

It is good to see a film about the period 1793-1796 from the other side. We have too often been formatted by the French Revolution of 1989 and fed with the great preconceived ideas about equality, liberty, the people, the poor against the rich, the evil, very evil nobility, the invincible Republic and the triumph of democracy over tyranny, all summed up in a kind of history for average Frenchmen in the Jack Lang sauce. The Villiers’ film has the merit of speaking to a wide audience about things so far removed from today’s France, so intimate to our society but so deep, however, in our common history—the king and the Catholic faith.

In this film, what do we see? Men who do not want to die out or surrender. They have an ideal: a Catholic and royal order. They will go to death, with bravery; they summon the great Roman virtues; they follow Christ; they go from feast to confession, from gallantry to artillery, sometimes with panache, sometimes with obstinacy. A phrase said by Charette is striking: “They are the new world but they are already old. We are the youth and the light of the world.” The glow in the lantern held by one of the king’s followers in the Vendée in the night, while they are being hunted, illustrates the hope of any struggle; the faith in the ideal, following the Lord who died for the truth. Throughout the film, we see white flags, priests and an ad orientem Mass, a close-up of a raised host. “For God and for the King” and other slogans that one could hardly hear except in meetings of the Action Française among young cubs full of testosterone, reach the viewer’s ears.

This well-paced film, which alternates between captivating battle scenes and informative scenes of hardly any length, pits the Whites against the Blues, the royalist Vendeans against the Republicans, in wars turned into butchery, where pitched battles give way to massacres and ravaged villages; where the art of war becomes a project of extermination of the Vendean race and has as its answer the defense of one’s land, the cult of the dead, the gift for one’s family, the loyalty to the King and the love of God, and oscillates between defeat and victory, hope and bitterness, the multitude of men and the solitude of the hero. A heroic breath breathes in the film. Charette, going to death and glory, becomes the romantic hero of lost causes and ruins. There are no concessions; peace is aborted because of the death of King Louis XVII, so one must either win or die. If one does not win, one dies. A beautiful radicality.

If Hugo Becker as Charette seemed, at the beginning, overcome by his role, undoubtedly himself frightened, he ends up before the firing squad as a martyr, rising to the heavens, alone and weary, piercing. Rod Paradot’s performance as a mad-dog resembles the boldness of the guys in my parish and complements Gilles Cohen’s performance as a quiet force. The actresses who play Céleste Bulkeley and Marie-Adélaïde de La Rochefoucauld are pearls among women. The dialogue sometimes lacks confidence; some lines are hollow, some ideas are avoided; the beginnings of the plot fall apart; but the whole, for lack of an extra sixty million euros, remains good, engaging, well directed.

As Alsatian as I am, far from Cholet and the two Sevres, the love of the Vendeans and the horror of the military expeditions of Kleber, a compatriot, touch me as if I were linked to these dead, French, massacred in hatred of religion and the old world replaced by a new one. The more we move away from the Revolution, the more we measure, in France, its terrible and deep effects; the violence of the ideas and the regime established, authoritarian under the guise of neutrality. This Vendéen heart, which has become a memory, summons a whole string of names, the illustrious viri of our France, and always reminds us, whether we are from the North, the South, or the East, of the blood of these Catholics who were led into genocide.

And the term, thrown like a ball and chain in the public debate, packed with all its explosive powder, does not detonate and divide as much the partisans, who see the mechanical will of the Republic to destroy the soul of the French and of France, with Reynald Secher or Le Roy Ladurie and Jean Tulard, as the more measured historians, like Jean-Clément Martin, cautious about the term “genocide” but sure of abominable massacres.

The film, although partisan, has many nuances. On the side of the Republicans, we find as many little gray and hateful men, little corporals, with the psychology of Manuel Valls, formed by a fascist and racist vision of the enemy, as those who, by opportunism or the march of history, took sides with the Republic for business or by chance. There were Kléber or Haxo, terrorists on legs, and Travot, seen as a just man, combining Catholicism and republic, assuming everything; and also Albert Ruelle, that kind of cynical deputy with the smile of a shrewd merchant. Among the Whites, the Count of Artois has it easy and confirms his mental obesity, his cowardice and his smugness. Against the intrepidity of Prudent Hervouët de La Robrie, there are the peace negotiations and the will to stop the fight by some, which stop the Vendeans from being made into total fanatics. The hero himself, Charette, brilliant, charismatic, brave and good, is caught in the trap of his radicalism, ending up isolated, answering an eye for an eye, worn out, on the verge of madness.

The film succeeds in being complex, and detaches itself from a thesis to be defended by posing a major problem: should the leader of men go all the way, even if it means running towards the massacre and his own defeat, in the name of an ideal, romantic in the end, despite the direction of history, and against political data? Or should he care, above all, about the common interest and his own, seek peace and compromise, if not survival, without ending up lukewarm, a centrist, or a coward in the eyes of history?

This is the difficulty of the one who sacrifices himself and puts his skin in the game, while others are complaining about their hemorrhoids in their country house in the Luberon, and in-between two appointments with the psychologist, as we all too often see, still, on screen, in the cinema.

Nicolas Kinosky is at the Centres des Analyses des Rhétoriques Religieuses de l’Antiquité and teaches Latin. This articles appears through the very kind courtesy La Nef.

Featured: Exécution du général Charette place de Viarmes à Nantes, mars 1796 (Execution of General Charette, Place de Viarmes, Nantes, March 1796), by Julien Le Blant; painted in 1883.

Trembling, or Troubling, Identity?

There are books that one hopes for or expects like certain boxing matches or a medieval chivalry tournament. We know that a fatal reckoning and a confrontation between opposing powers will take place, but also that at the end of the fight the darkest essence of the fight will be delivered to us as if by extra. The latest book of the philosopher Paul Audi, Troublante identité is one of those.

The denunciation of identity-based passions or struggles—whether on the part of the internationalist or alter-globalist left, cosmopolitan and progressive liberalism or the republican and universalist right—is certainly part of the obligatory obstacle course for a broad spectrum of the Western intelligentsia, on campuses on both sides of the Atlantic. Since the end of history announced by Fukuyama and his disciples in 1992 was constantly postponed indefinitely, an explanation had to be found, and still has to be found. Hence the persistence or revival of national, religious, ethnic, social or sexual identities is often summoned to the dock by our Kantian or liberal clerics to explain the postponement of the Sunday parousia that should have been that of the great reconciliation of globalized consciousness.

Usually, this kind of rhetorical exercise ends up as a kind of parody bullfighting without a kill: the muleta is painstakingly drawn up in front of the bullfighting monsters of the collective identity, but the matador’s sword never finds a firm enough place to end the fight.

Most of the time, progressivism is content to consider the narratives, representations or passions of identity as pathological illnesses caused by the harshness of global capitalism, the archaic wickedness of violent and radical beings, or by some confusing perversion of a misguided and vengeful cultural Marxism. Let’s suppress capitalism and/or Marxism, and the identity impulses, evanescent reflections of all the historical frustrations felt by the alienated souls or peoples, will disappear like the shadows of the Platonic cave in front of the sun of Truth.

Condemned to be Free

Paul Audi’s work is more interesting because it is at the same time more ambitious, more intimate, more original, more complex and more honest. Instead of reciting in a traditional way all the republican, liberal or revolutionary catechisms, in the name of which the ceremony of exorcism of the identity-demon whose tracking is required will be pronounced, the learned exegete of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Romain Gary or Thomas Bernhard (his three favorite authors, with Sartre and Lacan, which will be discussed later) prefers to start from his own personal experience: that of a young, uprooted Lebanese exile who arrived in France at the age of eleven, at the beginning of the civil war, in 1975, son of a famous and wealthy Greek-Catholic banker from the Land of the Cedars (Raymond Audi), naturalized French from adolescence, and who, out of love for his adopted country and hatred for his country of origin, tried to break all ties with any kind of filial allegiance or identity, whatever they may have been.

What is interesting (sometimes also exasperating, but one has to play the game) is precisely this bias assumed by the author, after all not very different from that of Montaigne or his favorite classical authors, to try to think through and fight the hold of national or religious identities—the others are of little interest to him, truth be told, from his own biography, from his own intimate discomforts, from his most personal or most obviously idiosyncratic recurrent anxieties, and from the painful and improbable fight he claims to have led for half a century, at the risk of psychic collapse, against the hold of his two separate, almost contradictory identities, the Lebanese and the French.

Strongly inspired by the philosophical work of Jean-Paul Sartre, in particular the famous and brilliant psychological analyses of sado-masochism and self-hatred deployed in L’Être et le Néant, but also in Les Mots or the critical essays on Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Flaubert and Genet, Paul Audi places from the outset the question of identity at the crossroads of two human experiences that he deems to be complementary and inseparable: those of self-love and shame, the morbid antechamber of self-hatred.

The Syndrome of the Naturalized

These psychological experiences can affect almost everyone; but according to him in a particularly painful and ferocious way those torn between two distinct cultural and historical worlds, one of which comes from an ashamed and forever twilight family past (Lebanon, he says, ancient Phoenicia, became in the twentieth century the “Finicie,” the artificial, bloody and clan-nation which never stops agonizing and sacrificing its sons), and the other one (the republican, Hugo’s or Gaullist France) from a literary, personal and phantasmatic mythology, elaborated since the first narratives of the Levantine childhood.

This is what he calls the “syndrome of the naturalized;” this uneasiness of the soul that strikes any allogeneous citizen, fearing that he will never be sufficiently assimilated in the eyes of his new compatriots, fearing therefore to be brought back in spite of himself under the effect of the glance of the others in the confinement of ancestral identity that he wanted to flee at all costs (Arab, Lebanese, Catholic uniate, great bourgeois).

In a rather evocative passage, Audi compares himself to Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes, when he understands, in front of the ruins of the Statue of Liberty abandoned on the banks of what was once the Hudson River, that it is indeed his own race, and not that of the cruel apes, which is responsible for the disaster present before his eyes since the end of his space travel. All his life, Audi claims to have felt the feeling of despair and shame of Pierre Boulle’s hero each time the past of his family or his native country managed to destroy the self-respect and the self-esteem that he thought he had consolidated by the virtue of his French, academic and secular “baptism.”

A great reader of Jacques Lacan (one understands why: nothing of what concerns foreclosure is foreign to him), Paul Audi attempts a coup de force, like a deserting janissary, left alone to attack the fortress of the sultan.

The national, religious, historical or social identities according to him can crystallize only under the auspices of the two first poles of the Lacanian topic: the big A and the small a object, the Symbolic and the Imaginary, the Other of the Ideal of the Ego built by the unconscious from the Name of the Father, or the symbolic assemblies which result from it and the other image, linked to the promise of enjoyment, which draws in the mirror of the soul the narcissistic and fatal projection of the ideal Ego.

To Be or to Become

As Ulysses in the Mediterranean goes from Charybdis to Scylla, the zealot of identity is condemned to be tossed between these two competing hells that are the labyrinth of the symbolic narratives (national, feudal or genealogical) and the phantasmatic point-reflection, mentally manufactured by a childish subject cut off from reality, drunk with a delirious and potentially devastating self-love, which prepares as many future catastrophes by determining in an irrevocable way at the same time what he is and what he is not. When the two referents of otherness, the symbolic and the imaginary, collide, then the worst becomes possible, and the criminogenic and self-destructive struggle to the death begins.

This is what Audi believes the parallel histories of the Lebanese nation and the European nations of the last two centuries verify. The man of identity is a potential murderer, compulsive or amnesiac, who can only pay his debt to life by destroying it and amputating himself.

This is where the argument goes up a notch and unfolds the occult, almost metaphysical knot that lies in the dialectical arsenal of all the opponents of identity—according to them, as for Paul Audi, the Franco-Lebanese Melchite and apostate, men only have a choice between two options: to be or to become.

To be is to want to remain the same as our masters or our ancestors were; to become is necessarily to become another than what we are or what others (and especially our own) expect us to be.

As science distinguishes between what is continuous and what is discrete (the singularity of deviant forms that will modify the course of a natural substratum), the philosopher of otherness and becoming posits that any form of creative singularity must be conquered, sometimes at the risk of the loss of reason or life, against any substantial particularity and the desire to perpetuate what was.

Only way not to die to oneself—to welcome in oneself another than what one is.

Death at the End of the Flight?

It is by wanting to no longer resemble oneself, and thus to no longer resemble the father, that one will succeed in eliminating the threatening shadows of big A and small a, of self-hatred or of the Sartrean hell of hostile or persecuting others, in order to be able to finally penetrate to the heart of a real that will otherwise always refuse to be grasped.

At the political level, it is by becoming a migrant that the sedentary will escape the curse of his forefathers; and it is by becoming sedentary that the migrant will free himself from his wanderings while saving the indigenous people who welcome him from their own identity demons.

The best illustration of this alchemy, for Paul Audi, is the character played by Alain Delon in Joseph Losey’s cinematic masterpiece Monsieur Klein (co-written with Costa-Gavras, another French-speaking exile and fighter of identity and national passions).

Everyone knows the story of this confusing and moving collector of Jewish goods during the Occupation who, confused with a mysterious Jewish namesake whom he never managed to find, preferred to be deported to Auschwitz rather than let this obsessive Other escape forever, capable, at the end of an indifferent or futile life, of freeing him from himself.

It is only regrettable, one might object, that instead of being reborn to life, Monsieur Klein (the one played by Delon, not his faceless double) finds death at the end of his quest. This is a high price to pay, even for the escape from a guilty identity.

Moses is Not the Pharaoh

In reality, the main merit of Paul Audi’s book is also its limit, or the most radical objection to his theses—as he himself admits, in the trying struggle he has waged all his life against the grueling waltz of his two contradictory identities, he has almost ruined on several occasions the very conditions of self-acceptance and thus of the pursuit of a subjective and family life. To want to become other than what one is, is to run the risk of going mad, or of making the whole world a stranger to what one has become (which is a bit of the same thing).

To welcome the stranger into oneself is to bet that the radical oblivion of the past (Audi has gone so far as to forget the Arabic language itself, and the slightest vivid memory of his Lebanese childhood) will constitute a sufficient foundation for building a perennial future. It is to dislocate the very core of one’s native life in exchange for a promise of happiness or ethical dignity that remains an even riskier gamble than those of Pascal or Nietzsche.

At the end of the book, Audi disappoints a little by attempting to take a sideroad, inspired by the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, in the direction of Jewish identity, the only identity in his eyes that fails to become one because it is inscribed against the background of a Law transcending the vicissitudes of History, in the direction of a messianic ideal deemed to commit the future of all men, whoever they are and wherever they come from.

This red herring, supposed to tell the concrete reality of the human condition, does not really convince us. And, in any case, even admitting that Jewish identity is of a different essence from that of all other national or religious identities (which remains to be proved), not everyone, by definition, can become a Jew, even in a roundabout or allegorical way.

Moses did not welcome Pharaoh per se before leaving for the Promised Land; he fled from him by letting him and his army be swallowed up in the Red Sea. If I expect from the stranger the extra soul that historical and carnal roots do not provide or threaten, then the very oblivion of my name and face will condemn me to expect from the winds of the desert a salvation that in the end I may never be able to obtain.

Fabrice Moracchini is a literary assistant for the cultural program Le Jean-Edern’s Club on Paris Première. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s in literature and philosophy. This article appears courtesy of Revue éléments.

A “Pitiful Thriver, in his Gazing Spent”: Vice-Admiral Chevallereau

If you liked the Moscow Purges 1936-37, you’ll love the Paris Purges 2023!

On Sunday January 18th, the Journal du dimanche (JDD), a Paris weekly, published an op-ed by Vice-Admiral Patrick Chevallereau, a figure little known to the general public or even to most of the military, having spent much of his career cultivating Those Who Succeed, as President Macron once famously said.

Over in the USA, the Vice-Admiral’s latest foray into literature, coming on the heels of dozens of mainstream-press articles targetting alleged French Russophiles, would perhaps qualify as a journalistic hit piece, whilst in the Ukraine, readers might fear its targets end up on Myrotvorets (Myrotvorets’ IP address, we are told, is NATO HQ at Brussels—small world?). The novelty here is that Chevallereau is “squealing,” if that is the word, on his very own comrades in arms.

“BEWARE!” reads the JDD article’s header: “French army officers (ret.) strive to forward the Kremlin’s interests… Patrick Chevallereau is a senior fellow and Board Member of the Open Diplomacy Institute, and he raises the alarm on backing from high-ranking French military men (ret.) of the pro-Russian narrative concerning the war in the Ukraine.”

Thereupon Vice-Admiral Chevallereau painstakingly lists or rather blacklists, a number of his erstwhile comrades. Apart from one or two dullish traditionalists like General de la Chesnais, he hones in, as one would expect, on independent thinkers: the Centre Français de Recherche sur le Renseignement (CF2R), staffed and led by retired, top-ranking intelligence officers such as Éric Dénecé, Prof. Dr. Col. Caroline Galactéros of the War College, General Vincent Desportes, PhD, former head of the War College, Ayméric Chauprade.

Politically Chevallereau’s targets represent a grab-bag of views, ranging from the Rassemblement national, to the vaguely communistic left, to monarchists, to wildly anti-communist and to no politics at all. They do however have one thing in common: some such as Col. Moreau, who is on the Myrotvorets list, have frankly reported receiving death threats, while others have so implied.

How odd! Rather than threaten, would not those certain of a cause coolly debate an opponent—in public?

Anyway, Chevallereau’s piece is all very blood-curdling, and in short, just awfully scary. So, one rushes to check whether Russian tanks be massing on the Rhine, or Russian reconnaissance aircraft flying overhead. Nothing on mainstream news. Or Russia invading Martinique? Nothing, neither. Unsettling.

Back-track. Unless we have missed something, the last major armed confrontation between France and Russia occurred in 1854, when France leapt on board yet another British colonial expedition, namely the Crimean War. Despite that and France’s involvement with the White Armies during the Russian Civil War, she reopened diplomatic relations with the USSR in 1924. The terms of Prime Minister Herriot’s telegramme to the Soviet Executive’s President Kalinin on 28th October 1924 may be worth recalling:

“from now on, non-interference in domestic affairs will become the rule regulating the relationship between the two countries”. France acknowledges the Soviet Government “as the Government of the territory of the former Russian empire, wherever its rule be recognized by the population, and as successor to the previous Russian Governments.”

Over the past century, Franco-Russian relations have thus tended, in the main, to the cordial, including during the Cold War. In a nutshell, one is hard put to find a single, serious hostile act by Russia against France in recent history—on the contrary, she has been supplying the whole of Western Europe with cheap gas for over sixty years, and has been cooperating on fusion research and the space programme.

But nothing daunted neither, three days after the aforesaid JDD piece, on January 21st the Vice-Admiral, waving the “don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up” flag, popped up like a Jack-in-the-Box on the private television station BFM TV, again in squeal-mode.

Without a single source being cited save for “our sources” (sic), the BFM TV news clip went on to portray an alleged Russian “hybrid war” (new buzz word for Any Old Thing) hacker onslaught on Office national des anciens combattants (Army Veterans) software.

Then, unfurling a tendentious header in the form of a rhetorical question, to which to which BFM TV provided neither answer nor a shred of evidence, namely “Have the Russians contacted ex-French military men to turn them as agents of influence?” The clip purported to “name and shame” Col. Xavier Moreau, Colonel Alain Corvez, Lt. Col. J-M. Cadenas and Col. Jacques Hogard.

Apart from Colonel Moreau, a former Gendarme living in Russia who is baldly, blatantly and unashamedly pro-Russian—as though that were a crime—none of the others would seem to have any particular truck with any country except France, unless they be like everyone else, mad keen on Italy.

Annoying from the Vice-Admiral’s standpoint perhaps, is what most of these officers do have in common: intellectual and physical courage, and good standing in the armed forces.

Wisely enough, lest someone actually read it, both Vice-Admiral Chevallereau and the anonymous BFM TV editors refrained from mentioning an Open Letter to Jens Stoltenberg, intitled “Ward off the train wreck whilst there yet be time.” Published in the business monthly Capital on 11th March 2021, the Letter takes down the NATO 2030 strategic planning document stone by stone. Signed by Air Force General (ret.) Grégoire Diamantidis on behalf of the Cercle de Reflexion Inter-armées, reprinted in several languages and journals, it caused an absolute sensation, and concludes with these words:

“In strict accordance with the principles laid down half-a-century ago by General de Gaulle, France cannot, lest she fail gravely, engage in the hazardous adventure of conceding US control over Europe.”

Has France Declared War on Russia? Or, When Did that Happen?

Now, so far as we know, and despite France’s de facto role as co-belligerent through her arms shipments and financial support to the NATO armies masquerading as the “Ukraine,” she has never declared war on Russia, nor officially proclaimed Russia to be an enemy state.

(Notwithstanding the massive influence of Carl Schmitt on President Macron’s advisors: one need only peruse the President’s thoroughly bizarre New Year’s “Hybrid War” Greeting to the French armed forces, where the term “brutal” appears half-a-dozen times.)

Accordingly, one is at pains to grasp to what strategic end the Vice-Admiral has drawn up his black-list, unless it be a personal settling of accounts?

Be that as it may, the four reasons the Vice-Admiral suggests for his comrades’ alleged Russophilia reveal only his awe before the Hegemon’s altar:

1/ Russophilia in traditional French circles, Russia being seen as an ally in the struggle for civilisation
2/ the military’s penchant for discipline, turned to fascination with authority in Russia
3/ “wrongly-understood patriotism” (sic), and the “ideal of a sovereign France,” which to Chevallereau is a ghastly flaw, obstructing as he would have it “a powerful, united Europe and a strong transatlantic alliance.”
4/ and then (which had this subject of His Britannic Majesty falling about laughing) “these same officers may have come to anti-Atlanticism through their ignorance of NATO and perhaps, through frustration at finding themselves working within NATO without however, mastering the subtleties, the codes and sometimes not even the (English) language, the sine qua non to make oneself heard.”

Er, quite. As in the UK, a significant percentage of the French officer corps are either sons of the nobility or of the upper middle classes; some even favour monarchical restoration. For the rest, they are highly-educated, failing which they would unlikely have been promoted. To suggest that men from these rarefied circles might fail to grasp fashionable sous-entendres or irony, have no idea how to behave in public, or – shock, horror, disbelief—have poor table manners, simply reveals the Vice-Admiral for the bounder he is.

“Pitiful Thriver, in his Gazing Spent”

Straightaway, the piece had some of France’s foremost military men seething with anger, as one sees from this short item by General Dominique Delawarde. Given Chevallereau’s notorious Anglomania, Delawarde suggests that those who Live in Glass Houses were well advised Not to Throw Stones at purported “Russophiles” in the French armed forces; furthermore, he points to a recent, anonymous survey of rank-and-file military. On average, 80 to 90 % of the respondents want no part of a war against Russia, would be willing to demonstrate against such a war, and believe the Ukrainian conflict redounds solely to the profit of the USA.

Urge for a Purge?

So, what’s with the Vice-Admiral’s Urge for a Purge? Put otherwise, who pulls his string?

Although Chevallareau may put up front his role as a “fellow” of the Open Diplomacy Institute, that can scarcely be where the monkey sleeps.

Headed by Thomas Friang, amongst Emmanuel Macron’s perfervid, or opportunistic, supporters, the heretofore-unknown Open Diplomacy Institute is purportedly a non-profit society pushing the déjà-vu Climate Change etc. agenda; however, no up-front address appears on the site nor does one find a call for donations. Whether it might be yet another Soros-front is a moot point. As for the rest of the Open Diplomacy Fellows, the Usual Suspects: well-connected, smooth-talking graduates of the swanky Business Schools which liquidate a nation’s wealth at the stroke of a pen.

What advantage the Vice-Admiral might seek there remains unclear. Where his true advantage and allegiance lie is found elsewhere. Rather than mere Anglophilia, the watchword is Anglomania.

What Happens in a Great Purge?

What does a nation, what does the world lose, when an officer is shot or disappeared? Which is to say, what does it take, to become an officer?

Mastery of one or two light-fantastic disciplines faintly more complex than basket-weaving: geometry, physics, mathematics, ballistics, topography, geography, diplomacy, history and military history, geology, mechanics, electronics, IT, AI, logistics, psychology of men and war, tactics, inter-arms coordination plus the officer’s own particular specialty on air, sea or land… Kill off or disappear a few hundred officers and they just spring back by sowing dragon’s teeth, n’est-ce-pas?

Backtrack once more, to the Moscow Purges, 1936. US military historians themselves readily own that by the 1920s, the Russian officer corps had produced some of the most remarkable minds in the entire history of strategy. The best-known is Tukachevsky, but he was not alone: Frunze, Svechin, Triandifillov, Isserson and so on.

According even to bog-standard accounts, such as Wikipedia, during the 1936-37 Moscow purges “three of five marshals were shot, 13 of 15 army commanders… eight of nine admirals, 50 of 57 army corps commanders, 154 out of 186 division commanders, 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars.”

In total, as many as 35,000 officers may have been shot or “lost” in exile. Had Josef Stalin—a psychopath who never should have come to head the Russian State—not conducted those purges, the German General Staff, well aware of the massed brain-power amongst the Russian officer corps, would scarcely have been so fool-hardy as to attempt Operation Barbarossa.
Like the loss of the entire German élite in the unsung German Resistance (of whom, an illustration here), which threw Germany to the wolves devouring her today, the loss of these Soviet officers was a loss to all mankind. Anyone who cares to use their noggin, will care to understand that.

Is that what Vice-Admiral Chevallereau and his Friends in High Places seek?

France is now virtually as corrupt as the Ukraine. Is she to become, thanks to Purges of the military intelligentsia, the next expendable battle-ground? Dr. Andrea Segatori’s clinical scrutiny of Emmanuel Macron’s psychopathology, in a filmed interview which has now been seen by several million viewers, should give us pause.

Now, were Chevallereau’s longed-for Great Purge to decimate the ranks of France’s military minds, who shall defend her? Emmanuel Macron’s cronies in McKinsey’s cushioned offices? Finnish PM Sanna Marin’s nightclub bouncers? Interior Minister Darmanin’s libertine-club doormen? We should be told.

Chevallereau, pitiful thriver—Beware what you wish for.

Mendelssohn Moses is a Paris-based writer.

Featured: In the NKVD’s Dungeon, by Nikolai Getman, ca. late 20th century.

The Holy Night

This story, by Selma Lagerlöf (1858—1940), was first published in 1908.

When I was five years old I had such a great sorrow! I hardly know if I have had a greater since.

It was then my grandmother died. Up to that time, she used to sit every day on the corner sofa in her room, and tell stories.

I remember that grandmother told story after story from morning till night, and that we children sat beside her, quite still, and listened. It was a glorious life! No other children had such happy times as we did.

It isn’t much that I recollect about my grandmother. I remember that she had very beautiful snow-white hair, and stooped when she walked, and that she always sat and knitted a stocking.

And I even remember that when she had finished a story, she used to lay her hand on my head and say: “All this is as true, as true as that I see you and you see me.”

I also remember that she could sing songs, but this she did not do every day. One of the songs was about a knight and a sea-troll, and had this refrain: “It blows cold, cold weather at sea.”

Then I remember a little prayer she taught me, and a verse of a hymn.

Of all the stories she told me, I have but a dim and imperfect recollection. Only one of them do I remember so well that I should be able to repeat it. It is a little story about Jesus’ birth.

Well, this is nearly all that I can recall about my grandmother, except the thing which I remember best; and that is, the great loneliness when she was gone.

I remember the morning when the corner sofa stood empty and when it was impossible to understand how the days would ever come to an end. That I remember. That I shall never forget!

And I recollect that we children were brought forward to kiss the hand of the dead and that we were afraid to do it. But then some one said to us that it would be the last time we could thank grandmother for all the pleasure she had given us.

And I remember how the stories and songs were driven from the homestead, shut up in a long black casket, and how they never came back again.

I remember that something was gone from our lives. It seemed as if the door to a whole beautiful, enchanted world—where before we had been free to go in and out—had been closed. And now there was no one who knew how to open that door.

And I remember that, little by little, we children learned to play with dolls and toys, and to live like other children. And then it seemed as though we no longer missed our grandmother, or remembered her.

But even to-day—after forty years—as I sit here and gather together the legends about Christ, which I heard out there in the Orient, there awakes within me the little legend of Jesus’ birth that my grandmother used to tell, and I feel impelled to tell it once again, and to let it also be included in my collection.

It was a Christmas Day and all the folks had driven to church except grandmother and I. I believe we were all alone in the house. We had not been permitted to go along, because one of us was too old and the other was too young. And we were sad, both of us, because we had not been taken to early mass to hear the singing and to see the Christmas candles.

But as we sat there in our loneliness, grandmother began to tell a story.

“There was a man,” said she, “who went out in the dark night to borrow live coals to kindle a fire. He went from hut to hut and knocked. ‘Dear friends, help me!’ said he. ‘My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“But it was way in the night, and all the people were asleep. No one replied.

“The man walked and walked. At last he saw the gleam of a fire a long way off. Then he went in that direction, and saw that the fire was burning in the open. A lot of sheep were sleeping around the fire, and an old shepherd sat and watched over the flock.

“When the man who wanted to borrow fire came up to the sheep, he saw that three big dogs lay asleep at the shepherd’s feet. All three awoke when the man approached and opened their great jaws, as though they wanted to bark; but not a sound was heard. The man noticed that the hair on their backs stood up and that their sharp, white teeth glistened in the firelight. They dashed toward him. He felt that one of them bit at his leg and one at his hand and that one clung to his throat. But their jaws and teeth wouldn’t obey them, and the man didn’t suffer the least harm.

“Now the man wished to go farther, to get what he needed. But the sheep lay back to back and so close to one another that he couldn’t pass them. Then the man stepped upon their backs and walked over them and up to the fire. And not one of the animals awoke or moved.”

Thus far, grandmother had been allowed to narrate without interruption. But at this point I couldn’t help breaking in. “Why didn’t they do it, grandma?” I asked.

“That you shall hear in a moment,” said grandmother—and went on with her story.

“When the man had almost reached the fire, the shepherd looked up. He was a surly old man, who was unfriendly and harsh toward human beings. And when he saw the strange man coming, he seized the long spiked staff, which he always held in his hand when he tended his flock, and threw it at him. The staff came right toward the man, but, before it reached him, it turned off to one side and whizzed past him, far out in the meadow.”

When grandmother had got this far, I interrupted her again. “Grandma, why wouldn’t the stick hurt the man?” Grandmother did not bother about answering me, but continued her story.

“Now the man came up to the shepherd and said to him: ‘Good man, help me, and lend me a little fire! My wife has just given birth to a child, and I must make a fire to warm her and the little one.’

“The shepherd would rather have said no, but when he pondered that the dogs couldn’t hurt the man, and the sheep had not run from him, and that the staff had not wished to strike him, he was a little afraid, and dared not deny the man that which he asked.

“‘Take as much as you need!’ he said to the man.

“But then the fire was nearly burnt out. There were no logs or branches left, only a big heap of live coals; and the stranger had neither spade nor shovel, wherein he could carry the red-hot coals.

“When the shepherd saw this, he said again: ‘Take as much as you need!’ And he was glad that the man wouldn’t be able to take away any coals.

“But the man stooped and picked coals from the ashes with his bare hands, and laid them in his mantle. And he didn’t burn his hands when he touched them, nor did the coals scorch his mantle; but he carried them away as if they had been nuts or apples.”

But here the story-teller was interrupted for the third time. “Grandma, why wouldn’t the coals burn the man?”

“That you shall hear,” said grandmother, and went on:

“And when the shepherd, who was such a cruel and hard-hearted man, saw all this, he began to wonder to himself: ‘What kind of a night is this, when the dogs do not bite, the sheep are not scared, the staff does not kill, or the fire scorch?’ He called the stranger back, and said to him: ‘What kind of a night is this? And how does it happen that all things show you compassion?’

“Then said the man: ‘I cannot tell you if you yourself do not see it.’ And he wished to go his way, that he might soon make a fire and warm his wife and child.

“But the shepherd did not wish to lose sight of the man before he had found out what all this might portend. He got up and followed the man till they came to the place where he lived.

“Then the shepherd saw that the man didn’t have so much as a hut to dwell in, but that his wife and babe were lying in a mountain grotto, where there was nothing except the cold and naked stone walls.

“But the shepherd thought that perhaps the poor innocent child might freeze to death there in the grotto; and, although he was a hard man, he was touched, and thought he would like to help it. And he loosened his knapsack from his shoulder, took from it a soft white sheepskin, gave it to the strange man, and said that he should let the child sleep on it.

“But just as soon as he showed that he, too, could be merciful, his eyes were opened, and he saw what he had not been able to see before and heard what he could not have heard before.

“He saw that all around him stood a ring of little silver-winged angels, and each held a stringed instrument, and all sang in loud tones that to-night the Saviour was born who should redeem the world from its sins.

“Then he understood how all things were so happy this night that they didn’t want to do anything wrong.

“And it was not only around the shepherd that there were angels, but he saw them everywhere. They sat inside the grotto, they sat outside on the mountain, and they flew under the heavens. They came marching in great companies, and, as they passed, they paused and cast a glance at the child.

“There were such jubilation and such gladness and songs and play! And all this he saw in the dark night, whereas before he could not have made out anything. He was so happy because his eyes had been opened that he fell upon his knees and thanked God.”

Here grandmother sighed and said: “What that shepherd saw we might also see, for the angels fly down from heaven every Christmas Eve, if we could only see them.”

Then grandmother laid her hand on my head, and said: “You must remember this, for it is as true, as true as that I see you and you see me. It is not revealed by the light of lamps or candles, and it does not depend upon sun and moon; but that which is needful is, that we have such eyes as can see God’s glory.”

Featured: “The Shepherds and the Angel,” Carl Bloch; painted in 1879.

Who Did You Say was the Enemy?

First and foremost, the nation means sovereignty, for which its people will stand up and be counted.

Throughout History, France’s people have fought for her unity, independence, dignity, and for certain principles, legitimately upheld. That certainty rested upon an awareness that her destiny was interwoven between the government of the day, and the people. Never in her history had De Gaulle’s certaine idée de la France been cast overboard, even in the midst of frenzied partisan politics.

That interwoven sense of destiny is now frayed, given the citizenry’s current disregard for elections (I decline to entertain our politicians’ anecdotal excuses) and Frenchmen being notorious for their acute political conscience. In my view, rather than disinterest, what the no-show vote points to is distaste for the ruling class’ incompetence, along with a latent and intensifying hostility to the system, its policy and decisions. Add to the no-show vote those thronging the dissident, essentially right-wing, parties; and between the people and the ruling classes one sees a gulf looming.

A class of oligarchs, led by front-men of the Ecole nationale de l’Administration, has adopted lock-stock- and-barrel a web of foreign beliefs, spun through myriad societies and entities—all twanging away at that one, Unipolar, US string. A class whose collective brain is squatted upon by Anglo-American ideology, namely that a nation’s people are pawns in the game of international, US-run finance. That class has rushed to sign up for the EU and NATO, crony-clubs run out of Washington DC.

In the recondite mental-space that class inhabits, the citizen becomes a bleating consumer-sheep; national borders go up in puff of smoke—there will be no language heard but English, no armies formed save within NATO, no manufacture founded unless it feed US banks and interest-groups, no currency traded other than that of account, namely the US dollar (or some interim substitute), with the so-called Western World tugging its collective forelock before the Washington camarilla.

Amongst the phenomena attending this geopolitical nightmare—huge waves of immigration, designed to submerge protest in each nation; bring insecurity on every street to frighten the citizenry into submission; 24/7, wall-to-wall encouragement for the most abject, backward forms of behaviour; infantile methods of acculturation that void education of all content, vitiate Reason and free-will and erase Christianity as an approach to religious belief. The mass-media come amongst us not to inform but to indoctrinate, peddling disinformation and official untruths. History never happened, the family and decent mores went out with the horse-and-buggy… and so forth.

In a word, they wanted decadence, and they have got it in spades—the ruling class now in place has consciously chosen to dissolve France into some sort of barbarian magma, a vast seething sub-human cauldron, as Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, “Europe’s” éminence grise would have it. A magma to be push-me-pull-you’d by the US and its acolytes.

At the end of the day, mark my words, it is Man, and not France alone, in danger; Man in all his greatness as a thinking being. Should the nightmarish outlook described above prevail here and throughout Europe, it will take over the world, save for China and a few, doubtless Asian nations. Therefore, a French patriot who would defend his nation’s identity and the dignity of Man is a humanist, as I suggest in my latest book, Le patriotisme français est un humanisme (ED2A Publ.).

Throwing off the shackles of short-term thinking, allow me to recall a few amongst the more notorious US misdeeds with regard to France.
One’s first reaction is dismay, followed by dread, as one contemplates the authorities’ passivity before the advancing Hegemon. In theory, these leaders were elected to press France’s interests and her role in the world. I confess to mounting anger, as I observe our leaders complacently standing by, whilst the country falls prey to another, perfervidly nationalist state bent on conquest. Our leaders have allowed themselves to be dragged into hazardous adventures, solely to placate the xenophobia and hubris of Germany and the Anglo-Americans. Are these people collaborators? Is this treason?

No need to scroll too far back in history to find the US Hegemon lurking. From WWI on, when President Wilson caught up Theodore Roosevelt’s purported “peace” torch (thank Heavens for Clémenceau), the US resolve to rule the world has only stiffened. The end of the USSR was seen as a new and unlimited playing-field for the US, where limitless impertinence might prevail.

To illustrate: in 2010, Russia had ordered two Mistral class helicopter-carriers from France. With the ships already in the yards under construction, in 2014 the USA pressured President François Hollande to rescind the contract, on the specious pretext that the Crimea had been “annexed,” i.e., returned to the Russian fold, and that Russia was backing the threatened Russian majority in the Donbass area.
Another case in point: on 15th September 2021, Australia, at Washington’s instigation, unilaterally rescinded the contract for building 12 conventional submarines in France, then turned round and signed one with the USA and the UK for building nuclear submarines. A friendly attitude on the part of our allies, no doubt?

Or just very recently, the latest spot of intrigue cooked up by our German friends, in relation to the SCAF (Système de Combat Aérien Futur), originally a French programme with German and Spanish participation. All too readily, it became plain how keen were our German partners on technology transfer—and then we learnt they would be buying US F18s rather than the French Rafale. In a nutshell, to keep the EU on the straight and narrow, the USA’s key ally is Germany, which is why the USA holds no end of goodwill for Ursula von der Leyen (whose family, by the way, is more American than German).

By now, the French are quite alone in referring to the “Franco-German tandem,” one that Berlin has had shewn scant reluctance to crash. Put paid to the SCAF, put paid to the joint helicopter project (the Apache, rather than the Tigre), put paid to the joint patrol vessel; equip Europe’s armies with US materiel, obstruct French arms-exports—all stunts which the US has either incited underhandedly, or openly demanded. Not to speak of the attempt to destabilise French nuclear deterrence, by suggesting France share that, as well as her seat at the UN Security Council.

Pushing the boat ever-further out, Berlin now seeks to have qualified majority voting within the EU on security issues, rather than their remaining strictly a national matter. Should France consent, she will be dragged into wars willy-nilly, and watch her foreign policy and nuclear deterrence go down the drain.

The USA is behind these manoeuvres, which Germany will play along with as she intends to be its foremost partner. Matters have only got worse since France rejoined NATO in March 2009.

As for France enjoying an independent energy supply, the key is our nuclear reactors. But in order that US-German firms may invest and
dictate prices for most electrical energy sources, Germany has blithely helped sink EDF.

Lest we forget—the critical chunk of Alstom was sold to General Electric, thanks to the man who happens to be President of France. Alain Juillet testified thusly to the Parliamentary Defence Commission: “With this Alstom business, we’ve gone and sold to the USA the means to manufacture turbines for atomic submarines, which means that France can no longer build them without US permission.” That the USA preys on France’s high technology has become so glaringly obvious that the French government had to veto the Teledyne attempt to take over the defence optronics firm Photonis. Under pressure from public opinion, in 2019 an Act (loi Pacte) was adopted, to give the Economics Minister greater power to monitor foreign investment.

War is not the only area where US imperialism seeks to govern by its own rules. Set up by the Marrakesh Treaty en 1994, the WTO no longer suffices to serve that purpose, so extra-territoriality in law has become the latest Big Stick wielded by the USA.

Any foreign company trading worldwide may thus find itself on the receiving end of extra-territorial US laws, simply because somewhere, somehow, such firms necessarily have some kind of tie to the USA. The laws amount to a dictatorial system holding sway over players worldwide, no matter their country of origin. Competitors are weakened or crushed; over the past decade, billions of dollars in fines have come down upon French banks and firms, swelling the US Treasury, on the specious pretext that these firms had some tie to individuals or states which the USA considers “terrorist.”

As the USA controls liquidity flows, so can they mould minds. Whilst funds like Blackrock and Vanguard rule the economy, they also invest in the mass-media, 90% of which is held by 9 conglomerates, controlled in turn by the pension funds. Our screens are over-run with ghastly US films and videos—braying out from a cultural desert, let alone Halloween and English-language advertisements, trampling on an Act of Parliament (loi Toubon) meant to defend French.

There is method to all this madness: imposing a certain mindset, bringing all thought into line with Basic American, making an outcast of any non-conformist culture, and ensuring the US reign over Europe. The claim to manifest destiny, to self-evident intellectual superiority, was confirmed by the Monroe Doctrine and brandished by Zbignew Brzezinski, advisor to Presidents.

After WWII, the plot only thickens. On 28th May 1946, a France in dire straits had little option but to sign the Blum-Byrnes agreement, whereby she agreed to allow in, certain US products. One major French concession was that US films were no longer to be subject to quota, whilst France could henceforth reserve 4 weeks only out of 13 for French films. By the first semester of 1947, 340 US films had flooded in, with only 40 French shown! Thereafter, Hollywood would set about to retool the French mind, instill the American Way of Life and broadcast US propaganda.

When all is said and done—all is NOT said and done! I do not doubt but that France will overcome the onslaught of this erstwhile ally become a foe to nations and to civilisation tout court, a foe—pride cometh before a fall—who will most likely, and very shortly, taste defeat. By giving free rein to every manner of disorder, the USA has slammed the door on itself and turned away from the true Western world, whilst Russia, reborn, shews herself to be the leaven for renewal.

In the Ukraine, the ongoing conflict, eagerly sought by the USA, will doubtless prove the turning point. The USA, the EU and their NATO arm-bangle are likely heading straight for the wall, as the self-righteous obtusity of the USA beggars belief. Military academies in France (and I expect in the USA as well) teach us to coolly and objectively analyse an adversary top-down: weapons systems, environment, terrain, climate, men, officers whilst our initial operating orders take all these factors into account. One can only surmise that the USA’s overweening sense of superiority has so blinded its strategists, that it underestimates the adversary, having drawn no lessons from all the—lost—wars it has pursued since WWII. Leaving aside the fact that on no account can one truthfully say that the USA single-handedly won that War.

France has tangled herself into a conflict which in no way concerns her. There is no point in pretentiously waving the banner of liberty: the Ukrainian elite is utterly corrupt, the Ukrainians anything but unanimously hostile to their Russian brothers, whilst the territory is fast in the grip of British and American diplomatic and military power. President Macron has been sending the Ukraine equipment needed here by our own armed forces; he has led our country to lose huge investments in Russia, and our people to suffer on all fronts—economic, financial, energy. Meanwhile Francophone Africa looks to Moscow for safety, an outcome plainly due to France’s kowtowing to Washington. Should one care to analyse our waning influence and power in Africa, one will hear our African friends say things which should greatly disturb French leaders. No French patriot would have allowed such decadent, even perverse, influences to prevail in this country as they how do. Francophone Africa has taken note of our decadent state, and has decided to walk away—towards countries they recognise as dignified and respectable. Inevitably, the influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation will continue to grow.

A sovereign France has at hand tools of greatness, into which feed her intellectual, scientific and economic wealth: nuclear weapons and deterrence, the overseas territories of the world’s second largest sea-power, her friendship with Africa within the wider French-speaking world, her seat at the Security Council, and the world’s second largest diplomatic network.

Meanwhile, our “friends” loot our technological potential, strive to cut us out of our role at the UN and to subject our nuclear power to NATO. They hold our language and civilisation in contempt, and impose upon us a lifestyle that flatly contradicts morality and French customs; they block our access to resources and to our habitual partners. Through twisted geopolitical manoeuvres, aided and abetted by the French ruling class who ply every trick in the rhetorician’s trade to blame Someone Else, they have plunged us into a dreadful economic crisis. What does one call such people?

Doubt not, but that Russia will win the war in the Ukraine. This is not wishful thinking, but a statement based on observation of facts. I DARE say that this will redound to France’s advantage, by breaking the chains of NATO and the EU. Totalitarian in their aims, dancing to the US piper’s tune, these two international bodies have revealed to all and sundry how false and how extremely dangerous they are. For the USA, this will prove the latest in a string of defeats.

Were France not in the grasp of petty, impulsive and ill-informed mannikins, she could seize the great occasions bearing down upon us to rise to her former heights. Russia is not our enemy!

Henri Roure is a retired general in the French Marines, educated at the prestigious École spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr (ESM), and the École Supérieure de Guerre. He holds a doctorate in Political Science and has authored numerous books, including, Le patriotisme français est un humanisme (French patriotism is humanism), Un Dieu, une terre et des hommes (One God, one land and people), and Sauvons notre laïcité: La crise musulmane en France (Save our secularism: The Muslim crisis in France). [This article was translated from the French by Mendelssohn Moses).

Featured: “La France protège le drapeau national contre l’antipatriotisme” (France protecting the flag from anti-patriotism), poster from 1909.

The Lost Eden of Jean Giono

Let’s start by clearing up a misunderstanding: Giono is not a Provençal writer. He was certainly born and died in Manosque, and most of his stories do indeed take place somewhere between the plateau of Valensole and the mountain of Lure. But it is an invented, romanticized Provence. The Reader’s Digest, having first selected for its contest on “the most extraordinary character I have met” the manuscript of The Man Who Planted Trees—which remains today Giono’s most world-famous short story—finally rejected it for lack of proof of the existence of its main character, Elzéard Bouffier. They were expecting a documentary filmmaker, but instead they got a writer.

A writer, therefore, not an author of greeting cards. Giono’s lavender was gray. “These blues, these ochres, these reds, these greens that we see in the front of the stationery shops, if you like them, stay in front of the stationery shops. Here, what you get is gray.” The tourists who rushed to the beaches of the French Riviera to roast their flesh had no business stopping in these arid lands, where one hates the sun and gets drunk in the shade. Nor does Giono recognize himself in the Provence of regionalist authors, in Daudet’s Tartarin, Pagnol’s César, or the bucolic songs of Mistral and the Félibres—an attempt at best naive, at worst artificial and hypocritical, to promote an outdated folklore foreign to the real people. “I do not know Provence,” Giono the Manosquin said with irony. “When I hear about this country, I promise myself never to set foot there. According to what I am told, it is made of white cardboard, with decorations pasted on, where tenors and baritones coo, while walking their bellies girded by red belts.” Giono was obviously a writer deeply rooted in his region, but what he discovered there, the terrible beauty of the world, the violence and the tragedy of human passions, is universal. His Provence, in fact, is the one described “as well by Stendhal as by Shakespeare, or by Cervantes, by Dostoyevsky.”

The Peasantry against the Modern World

If Giono belongs to a country, it is the country of the peasantry. Like Ramuz in Switzerland, he knew how to tell the greatness and the cruelties of the life of the countryside. Like Céline with the urban proletarians, and better than the intellectual elucubrations of the Félibriges, Giono knew how to translate into writing the oral language of the land. “It comes from the fact that we have no education; what do you want us to do about it?” explains old Amédée in Un de Baumugnes [A Man of Baumugnes—translated into English as Lovers are Never Losers]. “This here piece of paper, it said more to me than all the others doing acrobatics around a clarinet.”

It is with his feet firmly planted in the earth, in what he calls “the peasant civilization,” that Giono observes and condemns the modern world. Les vraies richesses (The Real Wealth—not yet translated)—an essay dedicated to his friends from Contadour, with whom he formed a small peasant and poetic community from 1935 to 1939—opens on the misery of the modern city-dweller, cut off from the life-giving sources of his being, exhausted, emaciated by meaningless work. “In this city where men are piled up as if one had raked an anthill, what strikes me, seizes me and covers me with mortal cold, is emptiness.” Modern man accumulates futile pleasures and goods, of which he immediately tires, forgetting the real foods, the real wealth, simple and eternal. Like this bread, which a village woman has decided to make herself, in the old-fashioned way. “And now I see on my table bread made by the housewife and I think it is very serious. Of a beautiful gravity, sweet and full of joy… Because Mrs. Bertrand took yeast, flour, water, and made bread, not to sell it, but to eat it.” The greatness and freedom of the peasant comes precisely from this independence, from the fact that he alone is capable of feeding himself; from the fact that he participates in the gush of life, in the perpetual recreation of the world.

Modern alienation consists in breaking this direct link between man and the land, by interposing money, the greatest enemy of the peasant,” which ends up starving those who feed the world. In his film Crésus (Croesus), the only one he directed entirely, Giono tells the story of a shepherd, Jules, played by Fernandel, who discovers a treasure. Not knowing what to do with the loot, he begins to distribute it to the villagers, who in return cower over their manna, distrusting each other and most of all their benefactor. Money makes them miserable, unable to take advantage of “the real wealth,” of nature that is freely available to all. One of the characters, not knowing what to do with his money either, sets out to build a bridge, even if it is useless. Technology, as much as money, separates man from the earth. Under the pretext of less strenuous labor, it degrades the soil, extinguishes the joy of work, and transforms the peasant into an agricultural worker, enslaved to the market. This is what Bobi tries to make the communist farmer understand in Que ma joie demeure (That My Joy may Remain—translated as, Joy of Man’s Desiring): “This fragrant air, this morning, it is your horse, your dog, your goat, and the little crazy snake that drink it all in and enjoy it. And you, will you remain shut out all the time from yourself, with your miserable tools for torturing and scraping, your files, your saws, your planers and your spades, your iron jaws, your iron teeth, your firebreaks with which you can never stop fires?” Through technology, we must renounce the modern and Cartesian ambition to make ourselves masters and possessors of nature. “The important thing,” adds Bobi, “is to become again the fair-haired vagabonds of the world. I am against the power of men.” Humanity will only find joy again by abandoning its will to dominate, by reconnecting with nature. “There will be happiness for you only on the day when the big trees will crest the streets, when the weight of the lianas will make the obelisk collapse and the Eiffel Tower bend” [“Destruction de Paris,” in Solitude de la pitié]

Giono was all the more severe with modernity as he personally experienced its worst horrors. Having enlisted in the First World War, he returned, like so many others, deeply affected by the Great War, and his entire work bore the scar. “I cannot forget the war,” he wrote in 1934, “I bear its mark.” In Le grand troupeau (The Great Herd, translated as, To the Slaughterhouse), he recounts the comrades who fell at the front without understanding anything, physically and internally destroyed: “No more mouth, no more nose, no more cheeks, no more eyes—crushed flesh and spikes of small white bones…. The hand of the dead man clutched a clod of earth with a small blade of grass.” And he recounts the anguish and loneliness of the home-front, of fathers waiting for their sons, of wives pining for their husbands: “[The bed] was so used to Joseph that his place was still formed in it, and in the white of the sheets, there was as if the shadow of a man lying there.” Giono’s radical—and controversial—pacifist commitment during the Second World War must be understood in the light of this trauma, and the global rejection of modernity that he drew from it. He had understood, indeed, that it is the same system, namely the State (whether capitalist or communist), which seizes man as a raw material to be corvéed at will, which exploits the bodies in the factory and which sends them then to be massacred; and that the only way to escape from it is to refuse entirely, from the beginning, this seizure, by remaining faithful to the earth.

[Refusing to get involved in a war that he felt did not concern him, Giono was not afraid to publish in the collaborationist newspaper La Gerbe, nor to give a report to the Nazi newspaper Signal. He tended to lump together the crimes of the Occupiers, the bombings of the Allies, and the attacks of the Resistance. Declining all patriotism, all martial heroism, he preferred “to live lying down than to die standing up,” to be “a living German rather than a dead Frenchman.” Though stubbornly non-aligned, he also never rallied to a single point of Nazi ideology either. And during the war, he hid several refugees, including Jews, in his home, without any political claim, simply out of humanity. All this earned him, in any case, a few months in prison after the Liberation.]

An Impossible Pantheism

If we were to leave it at that—denunciation of money, technology, war, return to nature—Giono would not be very original, and would almost pass for a Zadist before his time, an ecological militant full of good feelings, inciting children to plant trees. This is not the case, of course. First of all, because he knew what he was talking about, because his peasant civilization was not an intellectual fantasy or a literary fiction, but his daily reality. He often mocked the skeptical Parisians who, from their salons, reproached him for the imaginary peasants that he met every day. His essays, moreover, never took the form of a demonstrative treatise, but rather of a narrative, of a collection of anecdotes—they are based less on arguments than on testimonies. One will not find in his work extensive developments on the Gestell or the self-valorization of capital—although he talks about it in his own way, and arrives globally at the same conclusions—but instead one hears the voice of a farmer disappointed by his tractor, which is too costly in gasoline: “I took back the horse. Of course, he eats every day. But I don’t buy what he eats, I produce it. It’s a freedom. And then, it is a horse.” And Giono comments: “In these last words, there was all the secret of the peasant” [Le poids du ciel]. Are these testimonies authentic? Embellished? It is true that Giono was a storyteller, that he liked to maintain the blur between reality and his story, but what does it matter, after all, if it gives us hope? “I have sometimes been reproached for only painting men with eagle wings, lion claws, sort of legendary giants. I reproach you for painting men without wings, without claws and very small. You reproach me with excessiveness, I reproach you with blindness. I see better than you the becoming. And, even if I see it badly, and even if I am wrong, I have at least the merit of trusting in the greatness of men, of pushing them to the mystical contract that binds them to the world, of launching them towards the epic life with what you call ‘their only poor little arms,’ but on which the heroic wind will make the feathers of the eagle grow” [Les vraies richesses].

[We will come back later on to this theme of the tale, of the imagination, of the narrative lie. But let us emphasize this point: Giono had all his life consciously mixed reality and imagination, a bit like Balzac asking for his fictitious doctor Bianchon on his deathbed. His daughter related, among other anecdotes, that when he asked her about mountains in the distance, he immediately answered that the castle of the Baroness of Quelte was there, before specifying, in front of the astonishment of his child, that he had just invented it. He was more than seventy years old, and was creating his last published novel. He was going to slip into this book a “please insert notice,” to the effect that by referring to a certain Mrs. Dieulafoy, there never was an iris in Susa. But it turns out that this archaeologist, whose work Giono had in his library, had precisely reported the presence of irises in Susa. One might as well say that Giono was not afraid to lie, to cheat, to embellish the truth, or simply to play with it.]

Giono’s first novel, Naissance de l’Odyssée [Birth of the Odyssey—not yet translated] (which was initially rejected and was not published until after his first successes), heralded his conception of literature: the cunning Odysseus lies to his own wife, but his lie is honorable since it maintains the illusion of greatness, since one likes “better to take pleasure in a lie than to yawn at ugly truths.”

What distinguishes Giono from technocritical philosophers, and of course from small-time ecologists, is simply that he is a writer. The return to nature is not a concept for him, but a style, and therefore a feeling. If you open any of his books, at least before 1939, on any page, you will see, hear, and feel pantheism jumping out at you, overflowing with tastes, smells, colors and materials. One character is enormous and robust like a “piece of wood that walks,” another has eyes “like mint leaves” [Regain]. Old Janet, “straight, hard as a laurel trunk,” “snakes in his fingers,” mocks his incredulous neighbors: “You think the house is a house and nothing more? The hill, a hill and nothing more? I didn’t think you were that stupid” [Colline], And Giono, with each line, makes us see more than a house, more than a hill, more than a silhouette, discovering the deep unity, the indefinite resonance of beings, dipping his brush “in this thick mud of life that is the mixture of men, beasts, trees and stone” [Le serpent d’étoilesThe Serpent of Stars].

This pantheism irrigates notably all the Gionian painting of love. The desire, purged of its moral prohibitions as much as of its pretended liberations, washed of its unhealthy fantasies of all kinds, appears there as the simple budding of spring, the attraction, banal but unsurpassable, of the male and the female, for the renewal of the life. “I knew by intuition,” we read in his novelized autobiography Jean le Bleu (Blue Boy), “that these gestures were beautiful and natural and that nothing in these gestures was forbidden, that all the roundness of the world, from my feet to the stars, and in the beyond of the stars, all the world, all these fruits of moons and suns were carried in the branches of knotted arms, joined mouths and assembled bellies. I understood all the simple beauty of it all, and that it was right, and that it was good.” Giono neither condemns nor exalts sexuality; he speaks of it little, and always with modesty, as of a thing at once simple and sacred, which one veils, not by repugnance, but to spare the intimate joy of the lovers. The breeze awakens the flesh of Arsule, “all the networks of her blood started to sing like the net of the brooks and the rivers of the earth.” She feels Panturle’s warm chest under her cheek, while he embraces her. “She fell into this arm like a sheaf of hay and lay down in the grass. It was, first, a sharp gust of wind and a cry of that wind deep in the wood; the moan of heaven, then an owl cried down into the grass. A wild turtle-dove began to sing. Here is the dawn” [Regain].

But Giono was not a Sunday Buddhist, and this symbiosis between man and his environment was never total with him. Here lies all the tragedy of our condition, and all the depth of the writer. Everything is linked in the cosmos, but everything is war, too. “He kills when he cuts a tree. He kills when he mows,” we read in Colline (Hill, or Hill of Destiny) his first published novel. And if man does not kill, he will be killed. Jaume is sensitive to Janet’s universal compassion, but he is wary of it: “’Caress,’ he said. But how easy is it, if you don’t clear everything around you, if you let, just once, the steel fall from your hands, the green swarm will smother your feet and your walls,” and the boars will begin to invade the village in broad daylight. And Regain (Revival, translated as Second Harvest) that great little novel of the return to life, does not end with the praise of the hunter-gatherer, but with a kind of mastery, modest, respectful, yet firm, of man on his land. The young household relearns how to make bread, transforms the wild moor into a cultivated field, and Panturle stands, finally, not like a tree, but “like a column.”

Total union with nature is impossible. It is only a flattering dream for idle city-dwellers—and real farmers know how hostile their environment can be. But the union is also made impossible by the heart of man. Taking in an exhausted man in a mountain shelter, Sarah, in Batailles dans la montagne (Battles in the Mountain—not yet translated) gives him some goat’s milk to drink. At first he drinks unconsciously, greedily, violently but innocently, “like a kid;” then he opens his eyes, recovers his senses, and continues to drink, more gently, and more calmly, “and it was nothing other than a miserable, selfish and unhappy appetite.”

The great story of failed, unattainable pantheism, which in spite of itself heralded the failure of the Contadour, is found in Que ma joie demeure (Joy of Man’s Desiring). A strange man, with the appearance of a prophet, who calls himself Bobi, arrives one fine evening on the dreary Grémone plateau, where each farm is busy with its own business, driven by the sole pragmatic concern of producing, selling and surviving. But Bobi makes Jourdan see the sky, he shows him the constellation of Orion, and compares it to “Queen Anne’s lace.” This little metaphor seems like nothing, yet it changes everything. For it introduces poetry into the prose of everyday life, for it sprinkles beauty into the furrow of the useful. “So you saw this Queen Anne’s lace in the sky and the sky was blooming.” Bobi makes him plant hawthorn hedges, beds of daffodils, with no other fruit than their brilliance and fragrance; he tells him to spread outside the surplus grain during the winter, to make the birds come; he brings back a stag, and does, so that the voice of the forest can be heard. All useless, counterproductive things, but which reenchant an existence, which revive joy. But this joy, precisely, does not remain. “Everything failed”, he has to conclude, bitterly. And everything failed because of this love of man and woman, more complicated in the end than what Giono had first suggested. Everything failed because joy is not peaceful, because it is haunted by desire, because it is not enough to listen to the wind, to talk to the animals or to give a name to the stars, because it is necessary to seize a hand, to touch lips, and because any embrace is fleeting. “There is perhaps no joy in the world,” Bobi thinks. Giono thus leaves us facing a paradox—there is no joy elsewhere than in the world, and yet the world is not enough; man cannot fully communicate with it, cannot forget his solitude.

Generosity Against Boredom

“Who speaks of countryside Edens?… He who seeks an Eden will not find it anywhere” [Le poids du ciel]. We have been warned. Eden is definitely lost since man is man; since he is marked by sin, or subjected to the cruelty of the gods like the cursed family in Le Moulin de Pologne (The Poland Mill—translated as The Malediction). Like all great literary works, Giono’s work is a meditation on evil. A meditation that deepens and darkens over the years, becoming all the more pessimistic as the horror of war returns, once again. The pantheistic lyricism of the first novels, still tinged with optimism, carrying the hope of a “revival,” however precarious and incomplete, gradually gives way to an exploration of human passions. If the individual cannot find the simplicity and purity of the beasts, if he must let himself be eaten away by boredom or remain haunted by his insatiable desire, then it is this desire that must be probed, in all its generosity and all its violence. How to explain the repetition of massacres, other than by a natural inclination to murder, by a fascination for blood? “It would be necessary to have a man who bleeds and to show him in the fairs,” we read in the Deux cavaliers de l’orage (Two Riders of the Storm). “Blood is the most beautiful theater. You charge for it, and they will bed, borrow or steal to come watch.”

Stylistically too, the Virgilian lyricism gives way to a less pictorial, more factual, drier, sharper narration, the “chronicle” is substituted for the georgic, the meanderings of psychology for the poem of nature. There is no longer any need for words; the text seems at first to be flatter and more arid; but in its austerity, it conceals an unprecedented force. The first novel of this second period, and which remains without doubt the greatest Gionian exploration of evil, the most metaphysical, the most refined, is Un roi sans divertissement (A King without Entertainment—translated as A King Alone). In winter, murders strike a small, isolated mountain village. The priest fears an incident at Christmas mass, but Langlois, the captain in charge of the investigation, reassures him: “Nothing can happen tonight,” because the monster has had “enough entertainment.” It is not a monster, and that is what is monstrous. “It was not the devil. It was much more disturbing.” The murderer turns out to be an ordinary man, like everyone else, who could have been our neighbor, who is rightly named Mr. V. Why did he commit all these crimes? The Pascalian title tells us—to relieve boredom. To throw a little color on the white immensity, “beautiful spots of fresh blood on the virgin snow.” The murderer is only an ordinary man, a bored man; he could be our neighbor, we say, but it is worse—it could be us. Langlois has to admit that there is something “familiar” about him. Doesn’t he himself also take pleasure in tracking down wolves and slitting the throats of geese? “When it was plucked, I looked. It was always at the same place. Standing there. He was looking at the blood of the goose at his feet.”

Desire, in all its generosity and all its violence, we said earlier. If Giono probed the fascination for evil, he also described the passion to love and to offer. The dreaded Thérèse of Les Âmes fortes (Strong Souls—not yet translated) thinks only of vampirizing the love of her victims: “If I found blood somewhere to drink, maybe it would be worth my while to slip into the burrow…. Love is the purest blood that is constantly being replenished. You’re going to take it so far”—but the Numance couple are willing victims, who only think about giving and giving themselves. Let us be clear, Giono’s generosity has something Nietzschean about it. It is neither a duty nor a sacrifice—it is an overflow, a largesse, a magnificence, a form of conquest, a “ferocious and egoistic passion” [Entretiens avec Jean Amrouche et Taos Amrouche]. “’What a terrible weapon,’ said Madame Numance! ‘I am almost ashamed to use it.—‘What do you mean?—The pleasure of giving.—Ah! it is a king’s weapon,’ said Mr. Numance.”

Basically, and this is what is most disturbing, Thérèse and Mme Numance, the succubus and the saint, are not so different, and this is why the title evokes, in the plural, “strong souls.” The pleasure of taking and that of giving are like the two facets of the same devouring passion, where the other is only an instrument, a prey or an outlet, the target of a ferocity where the border between good and evil dissolves. The Artist in Les Grands Chemins (translated as The Open Road), who cheats at cards, gives by betting, takes by stealing—but the main thing is to walk on a thread: “What mattered was his skin. It was what he risked; the big move only served to risk more. No reserve, except his four or five liters of blood which, from one minute to the next, can flow into the sawdust…. Cheating forced him to bet the essential. He was a person in full.” He is, if one can say so, and despite his egoism, a generous, expensive, prodigal thief. His only rule is to play “without a ceiling.” He does not play to get rich, any more than Therese cheats the Numance couple for their money. It’s not even about dominating. It is not only about fighting, about winning, but about having risked his skin. In the margin of a photograph, which served as model for Thérèse, Giono described her “chewing and re-chewing her will to power.” But the formula would apply just as much to the benefactress. Doesn’t she see her ruin as a triumph? She has “a fulfilled face.” “’Now that she has what she wants,’ observed Firmin, Thérèse’s husband, ‘she doesn’t even look at you anymore.’” And the Narrator, the companion of the Artist, who gives him everything, even to death, also does the same, in a sense, by play, by a game perhaps even more subtle. To “cheat against oneself,” he says to himself, one overturns the walls, the ceilings and even the horizon, “we can go at life straight off, without the risk of embarrassing the greats in the stratosphere.” If cheating against oneself prevails, if the weapon of gift prevails over that of theft, it is not in the name of a morality that has become obsolete, but, possibly, because it is more perilous and more noble.

This weapon of the king has a knight, Angelo, the hero of the Hussard cycle. If Giono was always a fervent reader of Stendhal, it was only in his second period that the influence came to be really felt. Like Fabrice del Dongo in The Charterhouse of Parma, but a little more valiant, Angelo is a young daredevil, eager for adventure, as ready to kill as to die, without hatred, without even seeking glory, without even poking himself in the eye for honor; only for the beauty of the gesture; for the taste of the risk, because a desire overcomes him, because something in him overflows. “He had an overflowing generosity,” says the posthumous postface of Angelo. “He always responded to the most minute generosities,” we read in Le Hussard sur le toit (The Horseman on the Roof) “with debauches of generosity.” All his temperament is there summarized. Thus replied Giono, moreover, to those who denounced his pacifism. He does not refuse combat out of cowardice, but because this war is unworthy, because modern war, as Bernanos also observed, does not leave any more room for heroism. If Angelo himself joined the troops, it was less to defend a fatherland than to find opportunities to shine in it. “It is undeniable that a just cause, if I devote myself to it, serves my pride. But I serve others. Only then… can I even put anything in place of the word freedom, on the sole condition that I replace the word freedom by an equivalent. I mean a word that has the same general value, as noble and as vague. So, struggle? Yes, that word can stay. Struggle. That is, a test of strength.”

The tension that runs through all the generous Gionians reaches its climax in Angelo—torn between his appetite for life and his need to burn, he cannot hope for anything other than a mad happiness, the expression that gives its title to the sequel to Le Hussard. “Angelo asked himself ten times the question: am I happy?” “I will only be happy if I am involved in great events.” The war was for him a promise of happiness; it will prove to be disappointing. Having left to join the Piedmontese revolutionaries, after having fought cholera in Manosque, Angelo quickly becomes disillusioned, plunged in spite of himself into the backstage of ideals, involved in low intrigues, plots and treasons. His foster brother leaves him at the border: “And you, you do not care. You are noble. But me, I know that a revolution must first get by.” He will betray him; and they will meet again only in the last pages, for a final duel. In the meantime, Angelo tries to avoid the sordid traps that are set for him, not so much out of fear as out of disgust, out of horror of perishing in a lowly way. He gets drunk on cavalcades; he “shakes the lethargy” which encircles him, and breathes freely when he finally comes upon a troop of furious madmen ready to die: “He was not afraid any more to be fooled. He had found his soul.” Disappointed by all his skirmishes, he starts to long for the “friendly hand” of Pauline, which he had neglected to seize when it was time. He did not find Eden in the wars of Italy. Did he let it slip away with his love of France? “’Ah!’ he said to himself, ‘France is far away!’” But can we imagine Angelo in a peaceful home? He could only live Eden on horseback.

What Angelo fights, it is not for a political party, or an ideology; he does not defend the good against the evil—he fights for the happiness to fight, for a form of greatness. And his only mortal enemies are mediocrity, cowardice, ugliness—all those symptoms of boredom. He would feel closer to the demonic Therese than to what his brother-in-law, the Machiavellian Giuseppe, has become. He is not one of those “who foresee, organize, surround themselves with the securities of their intelligence as with a fortification.” He is not one of those who aspire to a cozy garden of Eden. He is, like the Marquis of Theus, “a man of a great path,” animated by a “will to explode” [Angelo—translated as Panther] It is not by chance either that Giono had his hero born a century before his own. It is a way of signifying that such an aristocracy of the heart has become impossible. It is no longer the peasantry—it is heroism that he throws in the face of the modern world. The notebooks of the author are very explicit here: “To allow by distance sarcasm against the current times…. My goal—to paint the Romanesque and the passions of men who had only passions without romance.” The only real danger in all of Giono’s work is boredom, which Panturle overcomes in Regain, which Bobi almost manages to dispel in Que ma joie demeure, which leads to murder in Un roi sans divertissement, and which Angelo attacks with his sword. Giono takes from the warrior panache, what he already drew from the peasant land—a remedy for modern nihilism, a fury of living to be brandished in front of nothingness.

Are the exploits of Angelo as implausible as was the lyricism of Bobi? It doesn’t matter, once again, since it is a question, through literature, to overcome the mediocrity of our condition, to insufflate passion, and what is proper to passion is, precisely, to embrace the real. If Thérèse is a strong soul, it is that she is “clairvoyant… of the dream;” it is that “the truth did not count;” that she “was satisfied with illusions like a hero.” If the Artist of Les Grands chemins cheats at cards, it is to upset the boring rules of everyday life: “All the pleasure is in the false cards…. There is an abyss between the truth and life…. When one is well and truly in the presence of the problem which consists in what one calls ‘living’ which is simply in the end to spend one’s time, one realizes quickly that one does not manage to spend it without diverting the things from their direction.” And if Giono has written so much, imagined so much, told so much, inked so many notebooks, scaffolded and mixed so many plots and stories, sculpted so many sentences, painted so many landscapes, sniffed so many smells, perceived so many colors, so much projected and caressed characters, if he wrote so much—it is also first of all by passion to overcome the boredom by the pen as others did by the sword. To repaint the world with ink rather than with blood. The page was his land; the dream his horse; the stories his happiness. “If I invent characters and write, it is simply because I am struggling with the great curse of the universe: boredom” [Entretiens avec Jean Amrouche et Taos Amrouche].

He needed to create to find, to excavate joy. “My sensibility strips everyday reality of all its masks; and there it is, just as it is: magical. I am a realist.” Realist, in the sense that he gives rise to the telluric waves of the real. His excess is only another measure, another world, not celestial but superimposed on this world, not constructed but otherwise natural. “I bet that when Shakespeare made a tragedy of it, Hamlet would have cried out: ‘I crush Ophelia, I kill my mother, I gut my uncle (among others) and you make a tragedy of it?’ But it’s a world! Nothing is more natural!” [Noé] If Giono returns to the earth, it is not to cultivate his garden, it is to hear it tremble. Giono returns to nature, because the supernatural is hidden there.

If Giono takes us on the road, in the middle of lavender or battlefields, or to the top of mountains, it is not, as we will come to understand, to find a lost paradise, it is because the wind of passion blows stronger there. The unity of his work proceeds from this quest for strength. It is necessary to seize the soil to face nothingness. In this respect, the last novel published by the author, L’iris de Suse (The Iris of Susa—not yet translated), although less striking at first sight, and although it was not intended to be in any way testamentary, fortuitously offers a remarkable conclusion. It tells intertwined stories, portrays tortuous spirits, typical of the second period, and yet it revives with a hint of pantheist lyricism, a reminder of the beginnings. Tringlot, a brigand on the run, driven by a thirst for gold, finds refuge with a shepherd and his migrating flock. If this company is at first only useful to him, it quickly becomes a joy in itself. He gets a taste for the heights, for the simple and free life of the shepherds. “I intended to go far, but here, it was something else than far, it was elsewhere.” To the point that the passion to steal gradually turns into a passion to give. The lout does not repent; he does not restrain his greed; he turns it elsewhere; and, finally, increases it tenfold. “He had just passed from one burning bush to another.” He stops coveting the gilding, to protect the most beautiful and empty treasure, a mute and apathetic woman, nicknamed l’Absente (Absent). Thanks to her, thanks to this miraculous barrel of the Danaids, Tringlot can unfold all the paradoxical essence of his love, entirely selfish since it is unrequited, and entirely sacrificial since it is generous without expectation of return.

Eden, in Giono, is an empty look, a friendly hand lost at the end of the main roads, a kingdom that one had to have lost to be able to chase it. One will not find any peace along the way; only the terrible beauty of nature, the mysterious song of the world, which sometimes awakens, for better or for worse, in the one who lends it an ear—this sort of love which is beyond good and evil which is the selfish joy of giving.

Robin Touillon: Disciple of Dionysius, faithful to Christ.

The Man who Planted Some Trees

For a human character to fully disclose its truly exceptional qualities, one needs the good fortune to observe its actions through the span of long years. If these actions are stripped of all selfishness, if these actions function according to the principle of matchless generosity, if it is made absolutely clear that these actions were done for no reward whatsoever, but rather that they made a visible mark upon the world – only then can we say, without the risk of being wrong, that before us stands an absolutely unforgettable human character.

Some forty years ago, I set out on a long trip, on foot, through the highlands that were then entirely unknown to tourists in that very old region where the Alps thrust down into Provence. I speak of that part of France which, to the south-east and the south, is hemmed in by the middle course of the River Durance between Sisteron and Mirabeau, and to the north by the higher course of the River Drome, which flows out from its source to the municipality of Die. In the west, the area is bounded by the plains of Comtat Venaissin and the buttresses of Mount Ventoux. In all, I walked through the northern part of the province of the Low Alps, and the southern section of the province of Drome, including a small portion of the province of Vaucluse.

In those days, this entire area was a barren and monotonous expanse of land, more or less a desert, some 4000 feet above sea-level. Nothing could grow there, except wild lavender.

I had wanted to cross this region at its widest part and after a three-day walk found myself in a place more desolate than anyone could imagine. I set up camp near the skeleton of an abandoned village. I had been without water since the day before and I really needed to find some. The cluster of houses, now in ruins and resembling an old wasps’ nest, suggested to me that at one time there must have been a spring or a well nearby. And indeed, there was a spring, but it had gone dry. The five or six houses, all roofless and blasted by the wind and rain, and the small church, with its tumbled-down belfry, were laid out just like those found in living villages – but here all life had vanished.

It was a fine day in June with lots of sunshine, but across that high-perched and shelter-less land the wind blew with an unbearable brutality; it growled through the carcasses of the houses like some savage beast disturbed at its meal.

I had no choice but to raise camp and move on. After walking for five hours, I still had not found water, and nothing indicated to me that I had any hope of coming across any. As far as the eye could see, there was the same dryness, the same tough, woody growth. Then I thought I saw in the distance a small, black, upright silhouette. I took it for the trunk of some solitary tree. I let chance guide me and headed straight for it. It turned out to be a shepherd. Near him, some thirty sheep crouched on the scorching ground.

He let me drink from his gourd and a little later led me to his cottage tucked away in a fold of the plain. He drew his water – excellent and sweet – from a natural well that was very deep and over which he had set up a makeshift winch.

The man spoke little; such is the way of a recluse. But he was sure of himself, and this gave him confidence and poise – a remarkable thing to see in this land stripped entirely bare. He didn’t live in some cabin but in a real stone house, where the work of his hand was perfectly visible – he had renovated the ruin he had found. The roof was solid and watertight; the wind that struck the tiles made a sound like the sea upon the shore.

Inside, his house was in order – his dishes were washed, his parquet floor swept, and his gun well-oiled; soup simmered on the fire. I also noticed that he was freshly shaven, that all his buttons were solidly sewn, and that his clothes were so carefully mended that the patches were nearly invisible.

He shared his soup with me, and afterwards, I offered him my pouch of tobacco; he told me that he did not smoke. His dog, just as silent as he, was friendly without being submissive.

It was understood that I would stay the night; the nearest village was a good walk away, about a day-and-a-half. Besides, I knew perfectly well the character of the few villages that were to be found in this part of the country, four or five of them scattered upon flanks of hills, or in groves of white oaks, hidden away at the farthest ends of roads accessible only by carriage. The houses were dismal and inhabited by woodcutters who made charcoal. Life was harsh. The climate, cruel both in summer and in winter, forced the families to huddle together, to live on top of one another – and this led to selfishness, which coarsened them. Unreasonable ambition knew no limits in the ceaseless desire to escape village life.

The men took charcoal to the city in their trucks; then they returned. The most solid character cracks under such unending severity and starkness. The women stirred up rancor. They festered with competition over everything – whether the sale of charcoal, or a good pew at the church; they fought over the right things to do and over the wrong things to do, until it became an all-out battle over what was bad and what was good. There was never any let-up. Over all this, the relentless wind chafed the nerves. There was an epidemic of suicides and numerous cases of insanity, nearly always fatal.

Since the shepherd did not join me in smoking a pipe, he went instead looking for a sack, from which he emptied out a pile of acorns on the table. Then he sat down to examine them, one after the other, with great care, separating the good from the bad. I went on smoking. When I offered to help, he told me that it was work meant only for him. And seeing the diligence with which he undertook the task, I did not insist. That was the extent of our conversation. When he had a large number of acorns in the good pile, he began to count them out into heaps of ten. By doing so, he further removed the smaller ones and the ones that showed even the slightest of cracks, so closely did he inspect them. When he had before him one hundred perfect acorns, he stopped, and we went off to bed.

The company of this man imparted peace. The next morning I asked his permission to stay on for the day at his place and rest. He only thought it natural; or rather he gave me the impression that nothing bothered him. I did not really need to rest, but I was intrigued and wanted to find out more about him. He led his herd out to pasture, but before he headed off, he took the little sack containing the carefully chosen and counted acorns and left it to soak in a bucket of water.

I noticed that in place of a stick, he carried an iron rod, as thick as his thumb and a yard-and-a-half long. I too set out, as if taking a restful stroll, and followed a route parallel to his. When the sheep found pasture at the bottom of a valley, he left the little herd under the care of his dog and climbed up to the spot where I stood. I was afraid that he was coming up to reproach me for my indiscretion – but not all. It was the way he wanted to go and he invited me to accompany him, if I had nothing better to do. Then, he went two hundred yards further uphill.

Having come to the spot he had set out for, he thrust his rod of iron into the earth. He made a hole into which he placed an acorn; then he covered up the hole. He was planting oaks. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He replied and said, no. Did he know whose it was? He did not know. He supposed it was common land, or perhaps it belonged to someone who did not look after it. He was not really interested in finding out who the owner was. In this way, he planted one hundred acorns with extreme care.

After the midday meal, he began to sort out his acorns once more. I believe this time I was more persistent in my questions, because he responded. He had been planting trees in this solitary fashion for three years. He had planted a hundred thousand of them. From these hundred thousand, twenty thousand survived. Of these twenty thousand, he reckoned half would be further lost, because of rodents and everything else that is impossible to see beforehand according to the intentions of Providence. This left ten thousand oaks which would endure in this place where there had been no trees before.

Just at that moment, I began to think about the age of this man. He was obviously more than fifty years old. Fifty-five, he told me. He was called Elzéard Bouffier. He once farmed in the plains, where he had been content to live out his life. But he lost his only son, and then his wife. He withdrew into solitude so that he might live out his life slowly, with his sheep and his dog. He said that this land had died for a lack of trees. Then, he added that since he had nothing more important to do he had decided to make up for this lack.

As I too was leading a solitary life at that time, despite my young age, I knew how to touch the hearts of solitary people. But still, I made a mistake. It was precisely my youth that compelled me to imagine the future as I would have it, which included the search for happiness. I told him that in thirty years, these ten thousand oaks would be magnificent. He answered me very simply that if God gave him the years to live, in thirty years he would have planted so many others that these ten thousand would be like a drop in the ocean.

In fact, he had also begun to study how best to propagate beech trees, and near his house he had made a seedbed in which beechnuts had sprouted. These experimental shoots, which he protected from the sheep by a wire fence, were truly beautiful. He was thinking of planting birches in those low-lying areas where, he told me, a little moisture was always to be found a few feet below the surface of the soil.

The following year came the war of 1914 in which I took part for five years. An infantryman hardly thinks of trees. To be honest, the shepherd had not made a deep impression on me; and I took his planting to be nothing more than a hobby-horse, like a stamp-collection – and I forgot all about him.

Coming out of the war, I found myself in possession of a small demobilization allowance and a great desire to breathe some fresh air. With no other idea than that, I headed out along the path of those deserted regions.

The country had not changed. But beyond the abandoned, dead village, I saw in the distance a kind of gray fog that covered the heights like a carpet. Just the day before, in fact, the shepherd who planted trees had come to mind. “Ten thousand oaks,” I said to myself, “take up a lot of space.”

I had seen too many people die during the last five years not to easily imagine that Elzéard Bouffier was also dead, especially since when one is twenty years old one regards men of fifty as ancient, who have nothing better to do than die. But he was not dead. He was in perfectly good health. He had changed his occupation. He now owned no more than four ewes but, on the other hand, had a hundred beehives. He had gotten rid of the sheep because they threatened his saplings. And the war, he told me, had not bothered him at all. He had peacefully gone on with his planting.

The oaks of 1910 were now ten years old and were higher than him and me. It was an impressive sight. I was lost for words and grew just as silent as he; we spent the day without speaking as we walked in his forest. It grew in three sections and was nearly seven miles long; three miles at its widest. When one recalled that all this came out of the hands and heart of this single man – and with no technical aid – one understood that people can be just as effective as God in efforts other than destructive.

He had followed through on another idea, and as a testimony to the truth of it, took me out to where there were beech trees all around, shoulder-height, spreading out as far as the eye could see. There were oaks as well, thick and beyond the age where they might be at the mercy of rodents; as for the intentions of Providence itself, it would now require a cyclone to destroy what had been created here. He then showed me fine thickets of birches that went back five years, that is, back to 1915, when I was fighting at Verdun. He had planted them in those low-lying places where he had rightly suspected that there was moisture close to the surface of the soil. These birches were tender as young maidens and quite as determined.

All this creation gave the impression of being linked as by a chain. But he was not concerned with it; he simply and obstinately went about his task. When I went down again by the village, I saw water running in brooks that in local memory had always been dry – this was the most astonishing natural result of his work. These dried-up brooks had carried water long ago, in very ancient times. Some of the sad villages of which I spoke at the beginning of my account were built on the sites of old Gallo-Roman settlements, the traces of which still remained, and in which archaeologists had found fish-hooks. These were the very same places in which the people of the twentieth-century were forced to make cisterns in order to have but a little water.

The wind also began to do its work and spread seeds. When the water reappeared in these villages, there reappeared also willows, osiers, meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain reason to live.

But the transformation was so slow and gradual that it went unnoticed, without provoking astonishment. The hunters who climbed the solitary high-places to look for hares or wild boars had noticed the growth of little trees, but they assumed it to be some natural caprice of the land. For this reason no one touched the work of this single man. If people had found out, they would have stopped him. But no one suspected him. Who could even imagine, among the bureaucrats and in the villages, this solitary man’s determination and splendid generosity of spirit?

After 1920, I did not let more than a year go by without paying a visit to Elzéard Bouffier. I never saw him step back from, or doubt, what he did. And yet, God alone knows how God functions. I have not written about his setbacks. One can only imagine that behind such success lay much adversity that had to be overcome; to ensure the victory of such passion, there had to be struggle and despair. One year, he had planted more than ten thousand maples. They all died. The following year, he did not plant maples, but beech trees, which had proved as hardy as oaks.

To get a true idea of the exceptional nature of this man, we must not forget that he worked in complete solitude – so complete that near the end of his life he lost the habit of speech. Or, perhaps, he no longer had the need for it?

In 1933, he was visited by an entirely astonished forest-ranger. This civil servant came to tell him about the order recently issued – not to build fires, so as not to endanger the growth of this natural forest. This naïve man told him that it was the first time he had ever seen a forest appear out of nowhere, all by itself. At that time, Elzéard Bouffier was thinking of planting beeches some seven miles from his house. To avoid a long trip home – he was then seventy-five years old – he planned on building a stone cabin near the place where he was going to start planting. And this is exactly what he did the following year.

In 1935, a veritable delegation of government officials came to have a look at the “natural forest.” Among them was an important administrator from the Department of Water and Forests, as well as a Deputy and some technical people. They spoke a lot of useless words. They even decided to take “certain steps,” but fortunately did nothing at all, except for one very useful thing – they placed the forest under the protection of the State, which promptly prohibited charcoal-makers from coming there. It was impossible not to be entranced by the beauty of these young trees, so vigorous and strong. And this forest exerted its power of seduction even on the Deputy himself.

In the delegation was a friend of mine, who also happened to be a captain of the forest-rangers. I explained the mystery to him. One day, in the week that followed, we both went to look for Elzéard Bouffier. We found him, busy at work, some twelve miles from the place where the delegation had stopped by.

This captain of the forest-rangers was not my friend for nothing. He knew the real value of things. He would remain silent. For lunch, I had brought a few boiled eggs, which we three shared. After our meal, several hours passed in silent contemplation of the land.

We looked out towards the direction from which we had come; it was covered by trees some twenty feet high. I remembered the look of this region in 1913 – a desert… Peaceful and regular work, the clear air of the highlands, frugality, and especially serenity of heart had given this old man robust health. He was an athlete of God. I wondered how many more hectares of land he would yet cover with trees.

Before we left, my friend made a simple suggestion about the types of species the land was best suited for, but he did not insist, of course. “For a very simple reason,” he told me afterwards, “because that good man knows far more than me.” After we had walked for an hour, he gave voice to an idea that he had been pondering for some time: “He knows much more than anybody else. He has found the best way to be happy.”

Thanks to my friend not only the forest but the happiness of this old man came to be protected. Being a captain, my friend appointed three forest rangers to look after the forest, and whom he also frightened enough that they became impervious to the many jugs of wine that the woodcutters offered as bribes.

Elzéard Bouufier’s handiwork did not face any serious risk until the war of 1939, when cars began to be run on wood alcohol, and there was never enough wood. People began to cut down the oaks of 1910, but the location where they grew was so distant from the major roadways that the entire operation was not financially viable. And it was abandoned. The shepherd saw nothing of this. He was some twenty miles away, peacefully carrying out his work, unaware of the war of 1939, just as he had been unaware of the war of 1914.

I saw Elzéard Bouffier for the last time in June 1945. He was eighty-seven. Once again I set out for that barren region. But now, despite the ravages of war, a bus ran between the valley of the Durance and the mountain. No doubt because of this fast means of travel, I could not recognize any of the places from my previous foot-expeditions. It seemed that the road took me into places entirely new. Only when I found out the name of a village did I realize that I was in that very same region which had once been desolate and barren. The bus let me off at Vergons.

In 1913, this hamlet of ten, maybe twelve, houses had only three inhabitants. They were savages, who hated each other, and who lived by trapping – physically and morally akin to prehistoric men. Nettles stifled the abandoned houses around them. They lived without hope. All they did was wait for death – a situation that hardly makes a person prone to virtue.

Now, everything had changed. Even the very air. Instead of the dry and brutal gusts of wind that had assaulted me long before, I was met by the breath of a fragrant breeze. A noise like that of water came from the highlands – it was the wind in the forests. And most astonishing of all, I heard the real sound of water running into a basin. I saw that people had made a fountain, that it was over-flowing; and what touched me deeply was that near it they had planted a linden tree, which was already four years old, already thick – an undeniable symbol of a resurrection.

In addition, Vergons showed signs of that labor for which hope is necessary. And so, hope had returned. People had cleared the ruins, had knocked down the broken parts of the walls and rebuilt five houses. The hamlet now had twenty-eight inhabitants, including four young couples. The new houses, freshly plastered, were surrounded by gardens where grew, mixed but well-ordered, vegetables and flowers, cabbages and rose trees, leeks and snapdragons, celery and anemones. It was now a place where one would very much want to live.

From there, I made my way onwards by foot. The war, which we had just left behind, had not allowed the full blooming of life; but Lazarus was out of the tomb. On the lower flanks of the mountains, I saw small fields of barley and young rye; at the bottom of the narrow valleys, the meadows were green.

This was only eight years ago. And now, the entire country is filled with well-being and comfort. In place of the ruins I had seen in 1913, there are now good farms, well-built, reflecting happiness and ease. The old springs, fed by rains and snows that fall in the forests, have again begun to flow. People have channeled the water. Beside each farm, amidst thickets of maple, fountain-basins overflow onto carpets of fresh mint. The villages have been rebuilt a little at a time. An entire population has come from the plains, where property is expensive, and settled on this land, bringing their youth, their energy, their spirit of adventure. On the pathways and roads one meets men and women who are well nourished, boys and girls who know how to laugh and who have rediscovered the joys of country fairs. If the old population, which in fact is unrecognizable now given their good life, is counted along with the newcomers, more than ten thousand people owe their happiness to Elzéard Bouffier.

When I think that one single man, relying solely on his simple physical and moral resources, was able to change this desert into the land of Canaan, I find that, despite everything, the human condition is indeed admirable. But when I take account of all that was constantly needed – the nobility, greatness and generosity of soul – to bring about this result, I am overtaken by immense respect for this old peasant, uncultured, unrefined – but who knew how to accomplish work worthy of God.

Elzéard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the home for the aged in Banon.

Jean Giono (1895-1970) was among the greatest French writers of the previous century. He wrote over fifty novels as well as scores of poems, plays and essays, and he was also the translator of Moby Dick. He was elected to the Goncourt Academy in recognition of his contribution to French literature. The Man Who Planted Trees was first published in 1954, in Vogue magazine, under the title, “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness.” Giono offered this story to the world, free of copyright. [Translated by N. Dass].

Featured: “L’homme qui plantait des arbres,” Frédéric Back, 1987.

The Romanesque Faith of Simone Weil: An Occitan Christianity

In 1942, Simone Weil wrote two articles about the Occitan region of the 12th century. Inspired by the Song of the Albigensian Crusade, she presented not so much facts as the spirit that, according to her, animated the ancient Pays d’Oc, of which Romanesque Toulouse was the new Troy. According to her, by destroying the Cathar region, Simon de Montfort deprived Europe of a spiritual freedom that it has never managed to regain.

Because of the persecutions carried out against the Jews by the Nazis and their allies, Simone Weil, Jewish by birth, published, in the Cahiers du sud, in 1942, two articles under the pseudonym of Émile Novis, which Claude Le Manchec published in 2014, under the title of L’Inspiration occitane (ed. L’éclat). At that time, modern civilization reached the paroxysm of its material unconsciousness: brute force, drunk with its new technical powers, was unleashed before the banners of that “satiated spider, swollen with blood” of which Mauriac speaks. But the Third Reich is only the actualization of the same tendency that corrupts humanity since it chose sin against God: here is the “empire of force” that reproduces itself, the one of the Greeks annihilating Troy, the one of Rome annihilating Toulouse, the Cathar, the chivalrous, the courteous. It is of this last great confrontation that Simone Weil speaks, through the reading of the poem of 9578 verses, written in the langue d’oc, the Song of the Albigensian Crusade (Chanson de la croisade albigeoise).

Weil does not see the conflict between Catholic Rome and Cathar Toulouse as a war of religions, in the plural. The Song of the Albigensian Crusade shows that allusions to religious controversies are rare, too rare when one knows how much “the disasters that befell this country could have led the population either to attack the Cathars as the cause of its misfortune and to persecute them, or to adopt their doctrine out of hatred for the invader and to look upon the Catholics as traitors.” But it seems that “neither of these reactions occurred. This is extraordinary.” This can be explained by the fact that in medieval Occitania, there was “a spiritual freedom” which was that of a collective tolerance made religion, permeating the whole country of Occitania. In contrast, modern tolerance inherited from the Enlightenment “only eliminated from the struggle of ideas the crudest forms of force,” without eliminating the struggle between ideas. This spiritual impotence had no other effect than to logically lead the democratic mentality to lock itself in “the constitution of crystallized parties.” The modern tolerance “substituted material constraints for spiritual barriers.”

And for good reason, intolerance is the product, not of fate, but of a historical and civilizational “decision.” Ever since “the father of St. Louis, as the poem tells us, thought he was serving God by coldly authorizing the massacre of an entire city after it had surrendered,” Europe has chosen force, against the spirit. Failing to choose the spirit, the Enlightenment could only try to imagine a tolerance in force. With Manichean belief, Weil estimates that “the alliance of the throne and the altar,” of which the Catholic tradition affirms the possibility, is not realizable: a struggle opposes ineluctably the logic of the world, which is that of force, and the logic of the Kingdom, which, not being of this world, ignores force and knows only the spirit.

The Occitans of the twelfth century were on a crusade against force itself, which they did not use beyond the necessity that desperation made them feel. Only then did the population of Toulouse, “crushed and unarmed, rose up” against the conqueror Simon de Montfort. Although they lost the war, “they won repeated victories over an enemy powerfully armed and puffed up by his triumphs;” and, as in the Bible David against Goliath, “a stone thrown by a woman’s hand killed Simon de Montfort.” But the use of force did not go beyond the necessity of duty. The Cathar decision was that of the spirit, Weil assures us—this is why the tolerance that was in force was indeed that of a spiritual freedom where “ideas did not clash,” but “they circulated in a sort of continuous environment,” achieving what the Enlightenment did not even desire. It is in any case what superbly suggests the epic poem of which we speak, where Weil finds the same inspiration that founded the Iliad of Homer.

The Two Renaissances

In her article, ” En quoi consiste l’inspiration occitanienne?” (What does the Occitan Inspiration Consist of?”), Weil, in the perspective of her Lettre aux religieux (Letter to Religious), indicates in what way the religion of each civilization has valued one of the complementary aspects of supernatural truth. She cites Israel, which worshipped God in His unitary nature, as well as India, focused on the holy identification of man with God, but also Persia, China and Egypt. As for Greece, it was the aspect of mediation that inspired its religion and its activities, haunted as it was by the “infinite distance between God and man,” which had to be bridged. Thus were born philosophy, science and the cults of the Greek Mysteries, with the aim of establishing bridges between the finite and the Infinite. “It is this idea which was expressed in their notion of harmony, of proportion, which is in the center of all their thought, of all their science, of all their conception of the life.”

The Roman conquest broke this “bridge-building vocation.” The rebirth of the Greek spirit could thus be made only by the rebirth of the concern for mediations. Now “the idea of mediation received the fullness of reality; the perfect bridge appeared. Divine Wisdom, as Plato had wished, became visible to the eyes”: it is the revelation of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the Mediator between Heaven and Earth. By baptizing Greek heritage, Christianity gave life to its spirit. This spirit was to give rise to an entire civilization, a civilization of spiritual freedom, the only living and free Christian tradition, on the occasion of the Carolingian Renaissance:

“After the tenth century, security and stability had become sufficient for the development of a civilization; the extraordinary mixing accomplished since the fall of the Roman Empire could from then on bear fruit. Nowhere could it do so to the same degree as in this country of Oc where the Mediterranean genius seems to have been concentrated… Spiritual riches flowed in from all sides without obstacle. The Nordic mark was quite visible in a society that was above all chivalrous; the Arab influence easily penetrated into countries closely linked to Aragon; an incomprehensible prodigy made the genius of Persia take root in this land and flourish there, at the very time when it seems to have penetrated as far as China. This is not all perhaps; do we not see in Saint-Sernin, in Toulouse, sculpted heads that evoke Egypt? The ties of this civilization were as distant in time as in space.”

On the other hand, the humanism of the Renaissance of the 15th century constitutes only “the last pale and confused image that we possess of the supernatural vocation of man,” elaborated on the opposition of Christianity and the Greek spirit, “while they are in the same place.” With the modern conception of science, art and philosophy, these bridges have been taken for permanent dwellings; these mediations between the human and the divine have been taken for the very hypostases of Divinity. Human intelligence has progressively closed in on itself, denying itself realistic access to that which transcends it. The destruction of the “chivalric civilization” of medieval Occitania even took with it that “intense civic feeling” by which, “in spite of certain conflicts between lords, and in the absence of any centralization, a common feeling united these regions; one saw Marseilles, Beaucaire, Avignon, Toulouse, Gascony, Aragon, and Catalonia spontaneously unite against Simon de Montfort.” According to the Song of the Albigensian Crusade, the medieval Occitans “even had a word to designate the fatherland; they called it language.” It is a common language, a common fabric of representations and ways of conducting life that these disparate regions defended against the armies of Rome.

The Roman versus the Gothic

Traditional Christianity includes two aesthetics, and with them, two ways of ordering the human world to the divine Principle: Romanesque art, elaborated during the High Middle Ages, and Gothic art, later, which accompanied the great movement of building cathedrals. We see there two complementary representations of the relation of the human to the divine. But Weil’s judgment is harsh: these two styles embody for her two antithetical religious options within the Christian world.

In the Romanesque, art shines forth the same inspiration as that of courtly love. Courtly love designates that supernatural love which, in contrast to natural love, is not based on the force of passionate and egocentric possession, but, freed from lust, it “is only an expectation directed towards the beloved and which calls for consent… Such love in its fullness is love of God through the beloved.” The troubadours used a word to designate this love: Merci. Courtly love denotes gratitude. Likewise, Romanesque art frees itself from the empire of force to assent to the spirit: “the architecture, although having borrowed a form from Rome, does not have any concern for power nor for force, but only for balance.” This balance, as on the Cross “the body of Christ was the counterweight of the universe,” is verified as well in “Romanesque churches,” the “sculpted entities,” the sublime “Gregorian chant,” and in “Occitan poetry”—everywhere this kind of deliberate awkwardness which is “a nudity,” the sensitive mark of the pure presence of Being which, unlike modern religion, does not seek to fill an interior poverty by an external effusion of grandiloquent representations.

On the contrary, according to Weil, “there is some defilement of strength and pride in the momentum of the Gothic spires and the height of the ogival vaults.” The Gothic still remains the sacred art of Christianity; but already a spiritual degradation is evident, because the sacred domain feels the need to dominate and exclude to prove its superiority. “The Gothic Middle Ages, which appeared after the destruction of the Occitan homeland, was an attempt at totalitarian spirituality,” writes Weil harshly; and she adds, in a highly questionable way, that “the profane as such had no right to be present,” while in Romanesque Occitania, “the supernatural did not mix with the profane, did not crush it, did not seek to suppress it. It left it intact and thus remained pure. It was the origin and the destination.”

Weil died a Catholic, baptized at the moment of death, on August 24, 1943, in Ashford, where she wrote her last profession of faith. But she was, singularly, a Roman Catholic rather than a Roman; tolerant, she considered that demanding “more faith” in the “incorruptible rigor” of Catholic dogma should not have resulted in the “extermination” of the Cathars. Worse, she discerned the value and greatness of the Christian faith according to a double criterion, not of originality and strength, which were the pride of Gothic religiosity, but on the contrary of archaicity and love, which were the pride of Romanesque piety. Archaism, on the one hand, since it is the “ability to combine different environments, different [previous] traditions” that seduced Simone Weil to “the Christian civilization [which] is the Romanesque civilization.” On the other hand, her life and her holy devotion to the working condition are commanded by an ethic of “human love” which, as in the Pays d’Oc; it is Christianly regarded as “one of the bridges between man and God.” So, the task of contemporary man is certainly not to restore what has “prematurely disappeared after an assassination,” but to irrigate his future projects with the inspiring source of Romanesque faith. “To the extent that we contemplate the beauty of this age with attention and love, to that extent its inspiration will descend into us and gradually make impossible at least some of the baseness that constitutes the air we breathe.”

Paul Ducay, Professor of philosophy with a medievalist background. Heir to the metaphysics of Nicolas de Cues and the faith of Xavier Grall. Gascon by race and French by reason. “The devout infuriate the world; the pious edify it.” Marivaux. [This article comes through the kind courtesy of PHILITT].

Lourdes to Paris and Back Again

Several years ago, on a solitary pilgrimage to France, I spent an afternoon sitting before the Holy Grotto at Lourdes and praying upon the many, many petitions that I carried with me in two great manila envelopes. I was very much moved by my parishioners’ expressions of faith in, and love for, Our Lord and Our Lady. Each of their notes and letters, signs of interior devotion, was attentively left at the special place designated for such messages within the Grotto itself, just a few feet away from where the Virgin had stood and St. Bernadette had knelt during the apparitions of 1858. Lourdes never fails to inspire. There is such a tremendous outpouring of love and charity here that no one can honestly deny the presence and action of the Holy Spirit.

The Visionary, Saint Bernadette Soubirous.

One night, after the iconic candlelight procession, I encountered a Chinese couple named Kang and Yan. They had been enticed away from the hustle and bustle of Paris to the mystique of Lourdes. The husband had been exposed to Catholicism in Hong Kong but was a non-Christian. His wife, Yan, came from mainland China, just next to the North Korean border. She actually showed me on her iPhone a fascinating photo that she had taken of the People’s Paradise from across the river that separates her Chinese hometown from that de facto nation prison camp. Her parents are Communist Party members and she was raised in an atheistic home. But she was deeply moved as she stood before the Holy Grotto. Kang could not cease commenting about the evident power of Lourdes, and aptly noted that the countless volunteers who care for the sick are in a way proof of the veracity of the apparitions.

During my stay I was lured away by beckoning friends to spend a few days in Paris, although I was reluctant to leave Mary’s peaceful enclave in the picturesque Pyrenees mountains. The “City of Light” is a looming magnet and is the heart of the revolutionary engine of 1789. Still, I took the slow train to Bordeaux and then the lightning-fast TGV northwards to Paris and plunged into the secular arena.

The peasant’s veil and shoes St Bernadette wore during the apparitions of 1858.

Arriving, I walked out of the Montparnasse train station and was quite surprised when the first thing I heard was a plaintive call, “Bonjour, mon Père,” I turned to see a young Frenchman looking at me hoping for a few Euros. Yet he was not typically bedraggled (at least not outwardly). We began to chat and I encountered a life that had spun out of control and was caught in the web of disorder. Hunger made its imperious demands and he was in the humiliating state of holding out his hand for help. I asked if he would like a blessing, and he responded, “No, I am an atheist. I have seen too much suffering to believe in God.” I repeated my offer, this time looking more intently at him. He paused, then with bowed head, said, “Oui, mon Père…” My trip thus began by blessing an uncertain atheist in the streets of Paris.

On the steps of the glorious church of la Madeleine a very distressed young Frenchman frantically approached me. He wore a beard and a longish topcoat that gave him the appearance of a 19th Century rationalist. He told me of his alienation and despair. For a moment he began to ramble about Nietzsche but then desperately asked me if God really exists. It was another moment of unexpected humanity and Christianity. I put a few coins in his hand and laid my own upon his head in blessing.

I will always wonder if his presence on those church steps revealed the Hand of the Good God drawing him away from nihilist darkness towards the Light from Light.

Back safely at Lourdes again, one fair morning I found myself standing alone in a little park before a statue of St. Bernadette. But I was outside of the “pilgrim zone” of the village. Suddenly I was approached by a different sort of Frenchman. He must have seen his opportunity to pounce since I was isolated for the moment from the protective pious throngs. At first, I could not catch his slurry patois, but it was evident that he was an anti-clerical and was berating our Holy Religion. I wanted to be sure I understood him before I responded, so I explained that I was not French and could he speak more clearly, s’il vous plait. He said with obvious disdain, “What are you then, Italian?” Taking that as the one compliment I’d get from this unpleasant encounter, I nevertheless answered, “Je suis américain.” At this he bellowed, “C’est pire!!” (That’s even worse!). And then a new torrent of abusive language poured forth.

Now here I must interject that being Catholic and American is something I thank God for every day. The virtue of patriotism demands at least that of any man. For patriotism, love of country, is an essential ingredient to uprightness of character. Even more so is love of our higher country, that indefectible Kingdom of God which is the Church of Christ.

Patriotism is not quite nationalism. It is a moral virtue akin to filial piety writ large. Patriotism does not despise the patriotism of another country. Nor is patriotism naïve to the continual necessity of bettering one’s native land and mores. In fact, as an American patriot I appreciate and hope to be enriched by the patriotism of the French. One can have a hierarchy of loves that are not mutually opposed. I am an American patriot, but I also have a deep love for France, along with all that which is good and noble in its people, history, culture, language and religion. And as a Catholic priest, France has a claim on me as La Fille aînée de l’Église (“the Eldest daughter of the Church”).

All this is in my heart and mind. But my apoplectic Gallican interlocutor—un véritable bête noir—apparently had not evolved past brute to the level of authentic human sophistication that would have enabled him to engage in the least modicum of proper human discourse with a stranger. He was a bleak contradiction of all that was noble in his own land. He chose, instead of gracious hospitality, the barbarity of gratuitously assailing someone he did not even know, indeed, a visitor who had come in good will to honor la Belle France and its people.

I said simply in response to his anti-Catholic and anti-American slurs, “C’est pas vrai…” (“What you say is not true…”). His rage boiled over and he began shouting louder. He was losing it. I chose to walk away yet he followed close upon me. I was wondering where this was going to end up because he was menacing me physically at this point. And to be honest, I was asking myself how my old Tae Kwan Do moves could be managed in a cassock, but decided this would produce quite an awful headline. I said to him, “Que Dieu vous benisse,” and made my escape. He roared at me as I turned the corner and slipped out of danger’s way.

This particular member of homo sapiens had really disturbed me, my spiritual force field had been punctured. I stopped momentarily on the sidewalk to consider what had just occurred. I resolved to return to the park, when suddenly before me blocking my way were two kindly, smiling Sicilian faces of an elderly husband and wife on pilgrimage. They greeted me warmly and immediately we were immersed in a lovely conversation about the Faith and Our Lady and all things beautiful and good. God sent them just in time, literally within minutes of a near disaster in the park.

I continued down the sidewalk and headed back to the safety of the Grotto (I needed to talk about this with Our Lady), when I came across an old man begging, yet another gypsy. His name was unusual, something like “Geor.” He was clearly not faring well and needed someone to care that he existed, at least for a moment. We exchanged a few words and I gave him something to help him. Then I blessed him. He took my hand and kissed it and tears welled up in his eyes.

Still contemplating the vitriol to which I had been subjected in the park, I ran into a rotund, avuncular, italianissimo priest, who asked, “Ma che c’è, fratello mio? Che succede?” (What has bothered you, brother?). I told him about the enraged Frenchman who had accosted me. The good Padre immediately took me for a cappuccino and lent a listening ear until my nerves were sedated. His quintessentially “good Italian padre” approach rescued me from my temporary discombobulation. In turn, I had rescued him from the trinket shops—a fair sacerdotal exchange.

This all happened within a space of 30 minutes during my morning walk.

France is a culturally and religiously occupied territory. The destructive spirit of 1789 has to have had something to do with the poison coursing through the veins of the angry man in the park. The very Church of God, which made France great (not perfect) for over a millennium, has been undermined and attacked in this country for far too long. The secular ruling elite have banished the Gospel from public life and horribly twist the people’s perception of what is in fact the best thing that has ever happened to them, viz., their conversion to the Faith.

They are so fanatical about this suppression of Catholicism that they cannot see that only the Faith will be able to save them from the twofold jeopardy of laicisme and islamisme, or whatever it is that is bothering them. Each one of us is created imago Dei—children of God with a destiny in Christ Jesus. Understanding this is key to finding our way out of Europe’s existential malaise, for it is essential to the re-conversion of France to the Faith. And I hold that it can happen.

In the post-Nice, pre-Covidian era there was a heightened worry even in Lourdes that there would be a terrorist attack. Huge concrete barriers have been erected to prevent car bombs or trucks from ravaging the shrine which daily swells up with thousands of pilgrims. The workers there had repeatedly told me they have occasionally noticed strange men in long beards and long tunics, as if they are doing reconnaissance. I myself noticed this one night. And in fact, to some I myself am also a strange man with a long beard and long robe!

In any event, the man in the park (who is emblematic of the militantly irrational secular Left) is truly a tragic, and unarmed figure. Europe is in a civilizational crisis that could be assuaged by shelving Voltaire and revisiting Aquinas. At least that would be a worthy start.

There is so much suffering in the world! It either crushes us or redeems us. At Lourdes, however, there is redemption. This is demonstrated in the vivid scenes of so many sick people endlessly streaming to the Holy Grotto; processing in their wheelchairs, candles in hand; attending Mass after Mass and standing in endless lines for confession and access to the healing waters. All these actions are signs that suffering can wound but need not destroy us. There is always hope beyond the suffering, and we can look toward the example of our Divine Lord and His Sorrowful Mother. Heaven is in solidarity with mankind in our suffering.

I hope and pray that each of us realize the tremendous blessing that is ours. We profess the True Faith, we join together in common prayer before the Altar of God each day, we are enriched by the grace of the Sacraments, we know and love Our Lady, the sweet Immaculate Heart of the plan of salvation. We even know that we are so very imperfect, yet have the faith to be able to see how God’s loving Hand still guides us. There is so much good in our parish life. And there is so much bewilderment and chaos in the world swirling about. Bless the Lord every day for what we have been given and let us never forget how good indeed God is…

Lourdes in its holy splendor.

Father Francis M. de Rosa is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A graduate of Niagara University, the Ateneo della Santa Croce in Rome and Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, he also holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C. He has published articles on bioethics in the Linacre Quarterly and the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly. He was ordained in 1997 and is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia and St. Anthony of Padua Mission in King George, Virginia.

Featured: “Our Lady of Lourdes,” by Francisco Oller; painted in 1878.