Monday, November 12, 2018

Pourquoi pas les Invalides?

There were those, among whom we did
not count ourself, who worried that
our Little Father had opened himself
to ridicule on his trip to Paris, to
dine with Turkey's fun raconteur/auto-
crat, by citing inclement weather as
a reason for avoiding observances of
an unpleasantness ensnaring this em-
pire in the soils of continentals.

Far from piling on with those silly
objections, we delighted instead in
his more constructive exploitation
of the 10th, in secret meetings and
calls of great value to our country.

Those in the media, who cannot read
between these lines to realize that
he'd sneaked off to commune with the
have only the excuse of a protracted
disorientation syndrome, another of
the Little Father's head fakes. Was
he really to soak his shoes in some
remote meadow, if he need only limo
across the Alexander III bridge to
consort with such other flamboyant
architects of empire as Louis XIV,
who commissioned that grand campus
for veterans of his wars, and Nap-
oleon and half his descendants, up-
holding Bourbon tradition on behalf
of the secular republic? No self-
respecting devoté of gold leaf in
the latrines of his own estates,
could be expected to ignore an ed-
ifice groaning beneath two hectares
of the stuff, gleaming 350 feet a-
bove the Seine. Why, just think of
the refugees the place would house;
but then, what else is an Emperor,
after holidays ill spent in Moscow?

Liam Rogers

Sunday, November 11, 2018

For November 11th: The soldier's speech

A day for remembrance in the West,
known here and there as Veterans'
Day or Armistice Day, was chasten-
ed from some righteous pomp by a
screenplay by Christopher Nolan,
which he filmed as "Dunkirk." As
a memorable passage, shown above,
records the survivor's modesty,
we're led by train to the follow-
ing morning, to see this soldier
demand of an impromptu comrade,
that he read a news account of
Churchill's unforgotten speech
to the House of Commons. In one's
own estimation, this unavoidable
dramatic climax of Nolan's story
was unexpectedly enhanced by his
giving of the speech in a voice
fogged by fumes of newsprint, af-
ter inhalations of cordite, flame,
oil, salt, gore, shit, sand, and 
aviation fuel in the previous week.

It was a face framed as Ford had
done for Fonda's Tom Joad, and it
just may endure as long in memory.
But the reader/actor is English
and responsibly educated, so the
rhetoric was far from compressed
in the flatter delivery of the
exhausted, unrehearsed soldier.
Unrehearsed, except in the life
and mind of that uncanny writer.

A speech, voluptuously elegiac
yet cast in a tone of defiance,
shone as candor, prosaically,
irony verifying its brilliance.
Enlistment breathed it life,
its impetuosities innocently em-
bodied and rescued, dutifully,
simply; not to be doubted at all.


Sir Isaiah Berlin
Personal Impressions
  Winston Churchill in 1940
Hogarth Press, 1980
3rd Edition
Princeton University Press, 2014©