In the Tempest



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.


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