In the Tempest

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severinere-dreyfus

In the Tempest[1]

August 6 1899

A departure like you’ve never seen, in this tumultuous chaos of people, things, the elements under an apocalyptic sky ablaze, everything streaked with howling thunderbolts!

Cries of freedom greeted the returning wind; cries of terror, galloping away; cries of rage in the station; in the heart of Brittany, a nameless confusion of beasts and vehicles and people: the battle to move forward, to get there!

Then, for seven hours on this real Walpurgis night, the train speeding through the clouds, a landscape of flames, the horizon straddled by zigzags, furious gales shaking, twisting, bending the ragged trees.

At last the rising day, Brittany gray and black, austere and flat, low houses, stunted trees, closed faces.

The pale dawn, gloomily, regretfully, whitens the sky…

And a vision persists, will remain with me forevermore. In the back window of the concourse—a picture of Sinai, dazzling, blinding, amongst the clamor of the terrorized city and the roar of the troubled sky—the silhouette of a man stands out, stands up, an inscrutable face full of strength and intelligence that the lightning flashes turn blue: it is Bernard Lazare[2], the torchbearer leaving for Rennes to finish the work that he alone, three years ago now, had started.

 

[1] On the eve of the final trial of Dreyfus in Rennes. Included in Vers La Lumière, 1900.

[2] (b.1865 – d.1903) He championed the innocence of Dreyfus from the start.

Actions of Grace

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La Fronde-March 30 1899

Actions of grace[1]

The day after my operation, while those around me were desperately worried, I motioned to them. They came running. Did I want to grumble about the pain, demand some relief, tell them my last wish? Or was it just an unconscious movement in the coma I seemed to have fallen into? The anxious ears approached my lips and heard me murmur this with reference to Le Matin two days before, “Has Esterhazy kept talking?”
For, although I owed much to God first of all for allowing the miracle, to [Dr.] Pozzi for accomplishing it, to [Georges de La] Bruyère for watching over it, to the good President of the Republic who, as a get-well present, wanted to spare a man’s life; to the press who was so kind to me; to the public and to friends, known and unknown, who transformed my room into a garden every day and showered me with so many and such touching proofs of tenderness, I also owe something to the Affair.

Thinking of it constantly, at all times, almost unto death’s door, gave me a unique power of resistance, an energy of incomparable reaction.

At one moment while I felt like I was dying, that I was really reaching the farther shore, some ugly faces like Japanese masks grimaced through my memory and I thought I saw some nasty paws rubbing together in satisfaction. The idea of the joy of the Bores stopped me clean in my tracks… and I turned back.

I did well. It was stupid to leave before reading about the investigation in Le Figaro. The first issue came to me with the first cutlet and when the curtains were finally opened the sun, broad daylight, flooded the room with light!

Ah, a nice surprise and a wonderful cordial!

“Séverine is better,” Le Rire said with Cappiello’s delightful caricature in which the animals and I are so happy to see each other again.

But if Séverine was better, morally as well as physically, she owed it, partly at least, to the morning love song of the Barber of Seville[2]—shaving the others til they bleed!

It shook off my sleepiness, awoke my combative instinct and gave me the furious desire to put my reveries into words. I owed to it the loss of blessed prostrations, beastly neutrality and hopeful annihilation.

But I have a little contempt for it.

And here I am again in the fight, dear readers, because I am fed up with this, I miss you, I miss La Fronde, I miss the battle—like those wounded who leave the hospital tents to go back to the battlefield, not accepting that the fight can be won without them!

 

[1] “Notes of a Rebel,” La Fronde, April 11 1899.

[2] I.e. Figaro.