Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
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A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out www.alysasalzberg.com.

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JUNE 1, 2011 10:56AM

Stitches (an Elegy for the Paris Commune)

Rate: 11 Flag

This week's Fiction Wednesday prompts were either to do your own thing, or to write a story that included the words "chance", "encounter", "umbrella," and "sewing machine".

Some of you might recognize those words as coming from a famous description of Surrealism being like "the chance encounter between a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table". As I was writing the post about this prompt, I learned that Leonora Carrington, one of the last surviving original Surrealists, had died.  Had this inspiration been communicated to me subconsciously somehow, perhaps in a dream? 

At the same time, last week France commemorated the 140th anniversary of the "Semaine Sanglante" ("Bloody Week"), when the Federalist/Communard troops who'd taken over Paris and started a new, Leftist government, were defeated by the official French government forces, the Versaillais (because the government was housed at Versailles).  No one knows exactly how many people died in the executions and fighting that took place during the 2 month-long Paris Commune.  Estimates range from 10,000 to 50,000 people.  

I've long been fascinated by this moment in history, as well as the Siege of Paris, an episode of the Franco-Prussian war that preceded it. I've been doing research and visiting exhibitions about both for years.   I wanted to do something in homage to those who lost their lives during this conflict.  Then, when walking home from work last Thursday, I had a "chance encounter" of my own, when I happened to spot a postcard of a painting by Pointilist/Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac that inspired me and got the juices flowing.  So, here is my story.  I hope you enjoy it.

_______________________________________________ 

 

Stitches

(Dedicated to the Communards and Versaillais who lost their lives in battle and executions during the Paris Commune.) 

 
barricades

 

April 30, 1871

If one could have observed the scene from a high post, one would have thought of a small but deliberate crow walking jauntily through the sand and rocks of a Parisian park.  For those on the barricades, though, the black figure wasn’t a crow, but a young woman dressed in mourning, stalking so rapidly past them as to cause surprise, offence, and laughter.

While others gave them courteous nods, or words of encouragement – even, occasionally, while some sang out lines of revolutionary songs, this woman did not.  Some wondered if she had a dire and extraordinary purpose.  All respected the loss she must have recently suffered.  Perhaps it had been a fellow member of the National Guard, or an innocent killed in the Prussian bombardments.

In fact, Anne’s mourning was for her parents, whose deaths from old age  had occurred only two weeks apart. It had been their time, and then again, the stress and near-starvation of the Siege probably hadn’t helped them, either.  She was glad in her heart that they couldn’t see their city now, taken over by rebels.  Their cause was perhaps just, but all she saw was chaos.  Everywhere paving stones had been ripped up and formed into barricades.  Wheels, bales of hay, and stones had been added to some.  There were women who consorted freely with the revolutionaries, and living in sin was now considered equal to marriage, and the church had to bow to the Communards’ demands.  By night, these holy places were used to hold political meetings, and she could not imagine what unholy subjects were brought up among old stone pillars and wooden Christs looking down from their crosses.  They’d taken control of the schools, too, and told the Church it had no place in young people’s education.

The hardest part of it all was, Anne felt so much that she was the minority. All she’d known seemed to have fallen, like the crumbling ruins near Porte Maillot that she’d visited with other curious onlookers a few months before.

By now she’d arrived at the shop. Feet already aching inside her tight boots, she placed her jet-black umbrella harder than usual upon the side of her work table.

Elisabethe was seated in her corner near the window, staring thoughtfully at a half-finished hat.  Anne felt her chest untighten.  Inside the shop, it was mostly as if time had been frozen.  The hat styles had changed, orders had lessened as people had used what little money remained to them for what food they could come by, and other necessities.  But there was still enough work to keep them busy and to put some earnings in their dress pockets. 

When Anne was here, behind the display window, she could imagine the war hadn’t happened, and then that they hadn’t fallen into the confusion of the Commune.  She could imagine times were calm, she could imagine she and Elisabethe would spend the day discussing dress styles, laughing at how grateful they were that the hoop skirt was getting smaller and smaller, and gossiping about customers and their hat choices.  She could imagine that as the day ended, she would take an omnibus home, where she would sit quietly at the table and discuss the day’s happenings with her mother and father, and retire to the same bed she’d slept in since she’d left the cradle. 

She could imagine here that time had frozen.  But of course, it hadn’t.

“Anne!” Elisabethe reproached her, “Why don’t you use the sewing machine?”

Guiltily Anne put down the length of velvet she’d been folding and stitching to make a double-sided ribbon.  Without turning her head, she glanced at the machine.

To her, it resembled a strange, heavy sort of bird, its body bent, its wing the gilded word Singer, a needle for a beak.  It sat on a table with cast-iron legs that seemed spindly to her, despite their rich motifs.  The machine was a new and glorious improvement over older models, she’d heard.  And Elisabethe had shown her how it worked, and it wasn’t complicated.  But that was far from being the problem:  Such a machine was a great expense, and, as partner, she knew they didn’t have the money for one.  And yet, one day Elisabethe had arrived with a man wearing a National Guard uniform, and he’d set the machine down where she’d asked, given them both a respectful bow, wished them good day, and left.

Anne had very strong suspicions that it had been stolen.

She’d known Elisabethe for seven years.  They’d met in school, and something had bonded them together, though for all that Anne was calm, Elisabethe was fiery, always laughing and seeking out amusements.  They’d both been told they had a talent for needlework, and Elisabethe had an extraordinary eye and imagination.  One day, she’d told Anne her dream to open a milliner’s shop.  A few years later, after an eventful apprenticeship, they’d done just that. 

The shop sat in a quiet square in Paris’ dense heart. Here, Anne felt as though nothing could touch them – and so far, nothing had.  There were no barricades in view, and no bombs had fallen anywhere near them during the Siege. 

“I don’t need the machine,” she told Elisabethe firmly, and bowed her head again over her work.  Her careful, precise stitches were as good as anything made by those more modern means.

Elisabethe nodded, gave one of her irrepressible smiles, and, much to Anne’s utter irritation, spoiled the entire illusion of the past by humming Le Temps des Cerises.
 
 
 
 
Column
 
 
May 16, 1871

Elisabethe had insisted they close the shop for a few hours.  “It’s a day of celebration!” she’d gaily declared.

Anne wasn’t sure what she meant, and she took her friend’s hand and followed her briskly through the streets, fairly sure she wasn’t going to like their destination.

The Place Vendôme was vibrating with activity.  Songs were being sung, spectators and National Guard troops were calling out proudly.  The Column, which had sat in the middle of the once harmonious plaza, was being pulled, pulled, pulled earthwards. 

Anne could not be joyful like the others.  She remembered passing the Column as a little girl, and staring up so high to the enormous statue of Napoleon I at its height as her father told her stories of her grandfather and granduncles, who’d fought with the Emperor.  She glanced around, as if trying to find some point of familiarity to anchor her. 

By chance, her gaze fell upon someone.  He wore a National Guard uniform like the others, but there was something in his brown eyes that caught her own.  He looked on with gravity, not heedless energy.  Strangely, she found herself moving towards him.

“Good day,” she greeted him, bold as she’d ever been.

“Good day,” he returned, and like her, it was as though he were unable to look away.

“You seem sad, soldier,” she continued. 

“I am, a little.  I have many memories of this Column.  But,” he straightened up, and looked resolutely toward it now, “of course it must come down.”

“But why?” she found herself asking.

“It’s a message. A way to show our power to the Versaillais, a way to show history that we no longer need to be oppressed.”  He spoke words that would boil other men’s blood into unreason, but he himself remained calm and steady.  For the first time in a very long time outside the shop, she felt safe.  She felt – even – happy.

They easily fell into conversation. His name was Jules, and like her he'd lived in Paris all his life.

Suddenly, with a crash unlike anything she’d ever heard or imagined, the column fell to the hard ground, breaking into pieces.  Loud cheers followed, cutting through the dusty, ringing air.  Men posed for photos beside the new ruins. 

Anne only gazed at Jules.  His eyes glanced up to make sure all was well, and then returned to her and did not leave. 

 
 cherry blossoms

(Fleurs de cerisier (Cherry Blossoms) by Gustave Courbet, 1871

May 20, 1871

She felt the spring weather more fully, the sun burning at the black fabric that covered her chest and arms.  She hummed as she sewed, old songs of her youth – and once, even, in accompaniment to Elisabethe’s Le Temps des Cerises.

Like a budding flower, her heart had opened.  She felt constantly light-headed, and though she remembered hunger all too well, she no longer thought to eat very much.  Whenever she could, she would slip out of the shop and to see Jules at the Place Vendôme barricade. And if you had gazed down at her from above, you would have thought her movements those of a sparrow, lightly hopping towards crumbs laid out on a windowsill. 
 
 
 
barricade blanche
(The Place Blanche barricade. image source
   

May 21-May 28, 1871: La Semaine Sanglante (Bloody Week)

It all fell apart so fast.

Faster than the Vendôme Column crashing to the ground.

Ringing and resonating louder inside her than that echoing, destroyed stone and metal.

It was difficult to keep track of the days.  She knew on the 21st that people were talking about it everywhere: the Versaillais had found one of the city gates open, and were rapidly advancing through Paris.  The Communards were fighting bravely, and there was hope.

Another day, Elisabethe came breathlessly to the shop.  Anne stared at her in surprise and horror: she was wearing a National Guard uniform, just like a man.   “They are coming,” Elisabethe told her frantically. “The women are guarding the barricade on the rue Blanche.  I will go, too.”

“Elisabethe,” Anne told her, as her friend took her hand, “Please! Think of your safety.  Stay here – if we are calm and do nothing, we can’t lose.  The Versaillais will find only two innocent milliners here. And if they don’t come, then we are not really enemies of the Commune, since most women can’t fight!  We are working, and doesn’t the Commune love workers above all!”  It was strange to hear herself intoning these beliefs – but she realized more than she ever had before, that Elisabethe was all she had left of her old life, that Elisabethe was the closest thing she had to a sister. 

“You make a good argument, but I’m caught up in the call of Liberty!” Elisabethe said with aplomb.  She kissed Anne quickly on the cheeks, then raced out of the shop and up the street, towards the distant Place Blanche.

Anne sat alone in the shade-darkened shop.  She did not move.  There was no sound outside in the quiet square.  A part of her longed to follow Elisabethe.  A part of her ached for the touch of Jules’ hand in hers.  This encounter had changed her so much, and it had been taken away so quickly.  As the Versaillais had continued to re-gain parts of Paris, he had left the Place Vendôme.  It had happened too fast for him to tell her personally. But he had asked a passing boy to give her a letter.  It was that now which she took from her pocket and held tightly in her palm.

 

 
pere lachaise
  (image source

  

And then – and then –  Anne raced frantically among endless tombstones.  She heard shots from somewhere, she couldn’t imagine what she was doing here.  She’d only heard that there was a last battle in the Père Lachaise cemetery.  The boy who’d given her the first letter had come back with another, a farewell.  She knew Jules would be fighting there.

For the first time in her life, she’d run, wind-like, without reflection.  Her whole body pushed towards something, straining like a rebellious horse.  And now she was here, in hell, in the afterlife, and the dead were in the ground, and the newly dead were on the ground.  But she would keep going till she found him. 
 
 
 May 28th - evening

They told her later it was a blessing she’d fainted.  It was far less incriminating.  The Versaillais had found her there among the stones, and because there was no gunpowder on her hands, they had decided not to execute her against the cemetery wall with the others. 

When she’d awoken, she’d asked about Jules.  Had he been taken prisoner?

They’d let her see the bodies.  She’d never wanted to witness such a thing, but she willed herself through the long line of them, the gaping eyes and mouths, the wounds still wet.  He was there, near the end.  His eyes were closed.  He looked as he would have looked in sleep.  It was as if she were witnessing a private moment, a vision of part of a life they could have had. A scream rose to her throat.  The soldier led her away and put her in line with many, many others.

 
 
 
prisonniers
(The prisoners arrive in Versailles for trial. image source
 
Afterwards, there was the trial.  She shook before the hard faces of the tribunal. She explained herself, but her voice trembled, knowing she was innocent, yet knowing she’d consorted with Communards, and doubting that these men, these frowning faces, could understand mad love, and that she’d been in the cemetery for any reason besides fighting. 
 
 

June 1, 1885

“It’s very hot today,” Elisabethe remarked, attaching a final quail’s feather to a hat.  “But then again,” she laughed –though with a new laugh, like shining metal that was spotted with rust – “it’s nothing compared to Nouvelle-Calédonie!”

Elisabethe and the other women had fought mercilessly at the Place Blanche barricade – but in the end, they’d been defeated.  The punishment for such combat could have been execution.  Elisabethe had been lucky – had perhaps, Anne sometimes thought, charmed and smiled her way to a better fate – and had been deported to the prison at Nouvelle-Calédonie.

There, with other Communards, she’d lived for many years, until, in 1880, all of them were pardoned and allowed to come home.

Anne remembered it well.  After a year in prison – a year she never looked back on – she’d returned to the city to find that everything she’d had had been taken away.  And so she’d started work as a seamstress, and soon her skill had allowed her to open a shop.  But she couldn't let herself go back into millinery.  Not without Elisabethe’s designs. Not without Elisabethe.

And then one afternoon about four years ago, she’d received a letter.  The last letter she’d received had been from Jules.  Touching the new one had brought a hopeful thrill to her, and she’d wanted to slap herself for her idiotic hope.  But as she read, her anger had turned to incredulous joy:

My Dearest Anne,

I am back and ready to make bonnets and stitches with you again, if you’ll have me. 

Your Friend Always,

Elisabethe

 

Within a very short time, they’d bought a larger shop and had re-commenced making hats.  It was a new era, a beautiful epoque, and there were wealthy people and daring new fashions.  Times had changed.  They were older, slightly broken but stronger.  They laughed more, and though they’d been apart for nearly a decade, they seemed to understand each other better. Anne sat down at their new Singer and watched as two strips of red velvet were joined together by the machine’s perfect stitches. 
 
 
psignac
                           ("The Milliners" by Paul Signac, 1885
                                    personal postcard collection)
 
 
 
 image source
 
 
Le Temps des Cerises (The Time of the Cherries) - from Wikipedia: "Le Temps des cerises is a song written in France in 1866, with words by Jean-Baptiste Clément and music by Antoine Renard. The song is strongly associated with the Paris Commune [due to its images of bygone days, hope, regret, wounds, and blood]. It is believed to be dedicated by the writer to a nurse who was killed in the Semaine Sanglante ("Bloody Week") when French government troops overthrew the commune."
 
Here are the lyrics.  I've added my (hopefully decent) English translation below the original French version:
 

 

Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises

Et gai rossignol et merle moqueur

Seront tous en fête

Les belles auront la folie en tête

Et les amoureux du soleil au cœur

Quand nous chanterons le temps des cerises

Sifflera bien mieux le merle moqueur

 

Mais il est bien court le temps des cerises

Où l'on s'en va deux cueillir en rêvant

Des pendants d'oreilles

Cerises d'amour aux robes pareilles

Tombant sous la feuille en gouttes de sang

Mais il est bien court le temps des cerises

Pendants de corail qu'on cueille en rêvant

 

Quand vous en serez au temps des cerises

Si vous avez peur des chagrins d'amour

Évitez les belles

Moi qui ne crains pas les peines cruelles

Je ne vivrai pas sans souffrir un jour

Quand vous en serez au temps des cerises

Vous aurez aussi des peines d'amour

 

J'aimerai toujours le temps des cerises

C'est de ce temps-là que je garde au cœur

Une plaie ouverte

Et Dame Fortune en m'étant offerte

Ne saura jamais calmer ma douleur

J'aimerai toujours le temps des cerises

Et le souvenir que je garde au cœur

 

 ____________________________

 

When we will sing of the time of the cherries

And the gay nightingale and the teasing blackbird

Are celebrating

Beauties will have madness in their minds

And lovers the sun in their hearts

When we will sing of the time of the cherries

The teasing blackbird will whistle it far better

 

But it’s so short, the time of the cherries

When we go together to gather them while dreaming

Of earrings

Cherries of love of the same color

Suspended beneath the leaf like drops of blood

But it’s so short, the time of the cherries

When we go together to gather them while dreaming

 

When you are in the time of the cherries

If you are afraid of the pain of love

Avoid the beautiful ones

I, who am not afraid of cruel pain

I will not live without one day suffering

When you are in the time of the cherries

You will also have heartbreak

 

I will always love the time of the cherries

It’s those times that I keep in my heart

An open wound

And in giving them to me, Lady Fortune

does not know how to heal my pain

I will always love the time of the cherries

And the memory that I keep in my heart

 

mur des federes

The Mur des Fédérés (Communards' Wall) , where on May 28, 1871, 147 combattants on the side of the Paris Commune were executed, after a last-stand battle in the Père Lachaise cemetery. The area is a part of the wall that separates the cemetery from the streets beyond.  Today, it is a site of pilgrimage (sometimes sincere, sometimes symbolic) for left-wing politicians, union members, and lovers of history and liberty.  This past Saturday, my boyfriend and I went to see one of the annual commemoration ceremonies that happen here.  There were so many people squeezed among the surrounding stones and monuments, that we couldn't get very close.  But their presence was an encouraging reminder that the Paris Commune, the first attempt at a (proto-) Communist government, a government for the people, lives on in spirit.  For me, the Commune represents hope and idealism; even those who were elected to power during this revloutionary government's roughly 2-month stint, accepted salary limitations.  Laws such as separation of church and state were created for the first time, and, in an advanced idea for many of today's societies, if a woman lived with a man and they weren't married, she could still benefit from a widow's pension if he were killed while fighting.  
 

For more information on the Paris Commune, I would highly recommend this Wikipedia article.  Of all I've read about it, and of all the exhibits I've seen, this is honestly the clearest, most concise explanation of an extraordinary kind of revolution.

 

Also helpful in my research for this piece were:

 

"Singer Through the Ages", a pictorial and textual guide to the evolution of what had quickly become probably the best-known sewing machine in most parts of the world.

 

"Timeline of the Civil War in France" - A handy, brief timeline of the events of the Franco-Prussian War, the Siege of Paris, and the Paris Commune. 

 

All other sources are cited or credited in or after my story.

 

Thanks also and always to Catherine Forsythe and her wonderfully helpful post on how to embed a YouTube video

  

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Everyone is welcome to participate in Fiction Wednesday! For more information, please visit the OS Wednesday Fiction Club blog.
Alysa: I love historical fiction.. especially this period and it was just amazing. This could be a book.
rated with hugs
Miss Alysa:
This is quite possibly the best piece of fiction I have read in weeks. It has everything I love in it.
I settled in with some espresso for a leisurely read here. How wonderful. And historical fiction to boot set in an extraordinarily interesting period.
I cannot help but think that those two strips of red velvet
joined together are Anne and Elisabethe...
both: women of immense passion,
and who can really say which had
the greater cause?

The frowning men, guardians of social order,
succeeded in snatching away their mad loves,
but never extinguishing them.

(Great fictional follow-up to your previous post's
purpose of showing the loss of war
and the defiance against it:
not in the cemetery to do battle!
love=the ultimate oppostition....)

fine tribute to those who suffered and died
in the struggle...

women's sewing together of things
even after mens' best attempts at destruction
is one of history's greatest safeguards...
Linda - Thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked this. It was a real challenge for me to write.

Babylovesme - I am beyond honored by such a compliment from such a talented and imaginative writer as yourself! Thank you!

Brassawe - Yes, this is definitely a "settle in" piece. I hadn't intended for it to be so long, and then it just got away with me - and the notes and details I wanted to add, took their time and space, too. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and yes, I think the Commune is a fascinating time period - so close to our modern day, and yet so very, very distant. So well documented in some ways, and yet so mysterious in others.

James - We are totally on the same page! The two strips of red velvet do symbolize the friends' reunion, as I see it - and the fact that Anne has come to trust the machine shows how she - and the world in general, have transitioned into a new era: the Belle Epoque. It's true that combat and sacrifice and triumphing over it all have been on my mind for sure these past few days. I"m so glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading!
hey! don't i recall you saying
the belle epoque is
YOUR particular favorite
epoque?

machinery to me is always a very ambivalent symbol.

so long as it is used to create beauty, like
our gals' seamstress stuff,
and words
that inspire and teach, like yours,
well, then,
i guess the cancer is worth it (they say cellphoners
gonna get the big C, i read today..._)
James - Right you are, the Belle-Epoque is indeed my all-time favorite time period! I find the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune a fascinating transition from the Second Empire, into this era. It's hard for me to write about the Siege of Paris/Commune, because I feel like it's so slippery - there doesn't seem to be as much documentation about everyday life as there is for the times just before and after it. This was a challenge for me to write. As for what you said about machines, I agree wholeheartedly. Cell phones scare me, too. Here in France they've claimed they cause cancer for a long time. I turn ours off at night. But sewing machines are a-okay!
nice write Alysa. :)

flowed well and was interesting.
sewing machines are a-ok.

re. the franco-prussian war, i think its greatest (possible)
tragedy was the infliction of syphilis upon Nietzsche
when he had his one and only (maybe) sexual encounter
as a german ambulance driver

with a whore.

then again, he maybe couldnt have written the last few
great (mad) works right before his ultimate brainmelt,
trying to save a horse from whipping
and falling into
obsure insanity
for 10 yrs
until, after his death,
he became a big hit.
Thanks for retoring my OS mojo if only for one more post tonight. So hard to move around here today. Anyway, this was particularly vivid...

"They’d let her see the bodies. She’d never wanted to see such a thing, but she willed herself through the long line of them, the gaping eyes and mouths, the wounds still wet."

You are a novelist. Yep, no two ways about it.
Wow! This is one great piece of historical fiction. I had to keep checking to remind myself it was fiction. Do you plan to turn it into a novel? It has all the earmarks of a great novel. R
Wow! This is one great piece of historical fiction. I had to keep checking to remind myself it was fiction. Do you plan to turn it into a novel? It has all the earmarks of a great novel. R
Alysa, what a fantastic treat this was! So much more than just fiction, practically a historical novelette. I couldn't access OS today, but I'm so glad I'm on now to have enjoyed your writing, sources, background, song and the art work. Love the symbolism of your final sentence: "Anne sat down at their new Singer and watched as two strips of red velvet were joined together by the machine’s perfect stitches."

The bar on fiction is certainly raised this week. Thank you for this!
♥R
Merci Alysa pour l'histoire et la leçon sur l'histoire française que je n'avais jamais entendu avant. Helas, idealism does seem to get squashed all too soon and brutally. And poor Anne seems to have had a really rotten romantic break. Poor Jules,and poor Elisabethe. But at least she doesn't lose Elisabethe completely.

And now I've got Le Temps des Cerises firmly stuck in my head!

rated1
Such dedication, I love it.
Rated with an Ug.
"Press send please FRed(tm)"
Blinddream - Thank you so much! It's an honor to hear that from a writer and poet such as yourself!

James - I did not know that about Nietzsche. That's a tragedy indeed - though I can't say it's the worst one.... I think there were so many, and I guess any tragedy can be strongly felt depending on who you are. One from this time that makes me extremely sad is how during the Siege of Paris, almost all of the animals in the Jardin des Plantes zoo were killed for food - not necessarily to give to those who were truly lacking nourishment, but to vary the available meal choices for Parisians. I can't imagine, for example, beloved elephants Castor and Pollux being slaughtered - through no fault of their own, and not for absolute necessity. And imagine children who loved them, coming to find they're now dead. There's a massacre of innocents and an end of innocence here that I find unspeakably awful.

BB - Thank you for your kind words! They mean a lot! As for that particular description, it comes from having seen actual photos of the victims of various massacres during the fighting. You can look them up if you're interested - they're pretty graphic and very sad.

Joe - Thank you so much! For years I've wanted to write a novel that takes place during the Siege of Paris and/or the Commune. I feel like the challenge is that, unlike for the time periods preceding and following it, it seems very difficult to grasp what everyday life was like. I've read a wonderful book on everyday life during the Siege, which I referenced in my recent post "Revelations from the Drought", but I still have so many questions. Writing this story was a big step for me, because I wanted to see if I could get past my limited knowledge, and still convey something about the era and keep it human. I'm glad you think I did a good job.

Fusun - I'm so happy you liked this! And the references, too. I am just so fascinated by this time period, that I couldn't help wanting to share more and more about it. Thank you for reading and for your kind words!

Shiral - De rien. Je suis toujours contente d'en parler. And I'm glad you have such a lovely song in your head - but I hope it'll leave soon, for something cheerier!

Creekend - Thanks for reading, and I'm so happy you enjoyed it!
Finally was able to access this and to settle in with it. You are on your way to being a successful novelist. No doubt about that.
How do I love this piece?
Let me count the ways:

"...a strange, heavy sort of bird...a needle for a beak."
"The shop sat in a quiet square in Paris' dense heart."
CHERRY BLOSSOMS
"...lightly hopping towards crumbs laid out on windowsill."

"It all fell apart so fast."

"You make a good argument but I'm caught up in the call of Liberty!"
"...and the dead were on the ground, and the new dead were on the ground."
"...wet wounds."
"...a new era, a beautiful epogue..."

OM, I could go on forever and repeat every word you wrote & then the lyrics (THANK-YOU for the Translation btw)

When you are in the time of the cherries
You will also have heartbreak...

"...still convey something about the era and keep it human."

YOU "remember this well."

So, how many ways can we say?
YOU need to write THIS book
If little information exist-
someone needs to inform us.
I really believe it should be YOU.
If it has not been said before, this is one great piece of historical fiction. R
When someone communicates with me in a dream, it's only Art Garfunkle. And he's saying something about laundry.
well, massacre of the Innocents is the only way to wage war.
elephants' hearts were eaten native indian style, i hear tell,
from my wacky heated head:
memory prolonged.

like yrs about this absolutely crucial war that
defined history for a hundred years.

til 1950 or so.

nietzsche is a greater loss to the world than 12oo elephants.
in the palace of nihilism he built for us to kill each other in
(w/great reluctance)
he is always quoted by mischevious longhaired american
punk ass kids in black and goth chicks willing to do
anything except sex or loss of dignity

for a man who can quote the mustache.

what doesnt kill us makes us stronger
is now commonsense

as is

man is a bridge to uberman.
Very nice, if one could root for the other team too.
No one rights the secret policeman very well. Perhaps AC does. But, I liked your post.
fernsy – You are so kind! Thanks so much for reading and, as always, for your support!

AJ – Thank you so much! I do want to write a book about this period one day…thanks for your vote of confidence!

Trudge – Thanks. That really means a lot, especially because writing this was something I’ve been wanting to do – but afraid to do – for a really long time.

Noirville – Hmmm….not sure who got the better deal there….

James – “in the palace of nihilism he built for us to kill each other in/(w/great reluctance)” – I love it. But though he’s important, I just can’t help but feel awful for the elephants. Is the wonder and joy they brought people, less valuable than nihilism? A real question, not a rhetorical one….

Don – I’m glad you liked this – but I have to confess, I’m not exactly sure I understand what you mean! If you’re talking about rooting for the Left/Communism, I have to say that though I am definitely more Left-leaning, I’m also not militant about it, and I definitely see the evils of Communism when put into practice by mankind. What I love about the Commune is, it wasn’t the Communism we know today, but an earlier form, where many of the conventions that characterize freedom for us (such as permitted religion, the right to earn money, etc) still existed, while new ideas like the separation of church and state, and free education and education supplies (including, in some poor areas, clothing), were an intrinsic part of how things were run. The Commune had its bad side, too – but it’s hard not to admire the honest idealism of these people – and the ability of a majority of a city to mobilize for change.