Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Whistling For Comfort

The days appear suddenly clipped as a premature summer swelter has left me tumbling under a rising uncertainty. My reading has continued to crawl, exercising for survival if not dignity. I have been dousing myself with Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honor trilogy, practically every third day, while also keeping up with samizdat requirements, despite the baffling silences of late. The surprise of it all has been Horne's Fall of Paris which I find captivating. The abrupt collapse of the French reminded me of First Manassas. An arrogant stupidity led the French away from the negotiating table and afforded the Prussians all cause to invade. The subsequent siege by the Prussians was hoped by many in Paris to be a galvanizing event, alas the distances between the classes proved insurmountable even as they were reduced to eating rats together.

I find Victor Hugo quite interesting in this context. Returning from exile after the defeat of the Second Empire, he longs for a socialist paradise and when fails to materialize he begs the Prussians to spare the spark of civilization. The tactics, weaponry and social undercurrents mirror the nearly contemporaneous American Civil War and hears echoes of the lamenting bourgeois from Richmond and Atlanta in the grieved Parisians. I recall reading Enid Starkie's biography of Rimbaud in my early 20s and imagining his responses to the grisly reality of the siege and war as well as the intoxicating promise of the Commune.


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