Memories of war
The Mémoires of war is a literary work written by Charles de Gaulle, which extends on three volumes. Each one corresponds to a precise stage of the Second world war (the title of work, at which time it returns, the date of composition): the Call, 1940-1942 (1954), the Unit, 1942-1944 (1956) and Safety, 1944-1946 (1959). Memory S histories, they also clarify qualities of writer of de Gaulle, her style and her romantic thought, and its important literary culture when it clearly puts in echoes certain lyric passages of his account with the French traditional philosopher's stones (Lamartine, Paul Valéry, Châteaubriand…).
MemoriesCharles de Gaulle exposes in this work the epopee of the Free France during the Second world war and described her unfolding with much meticulousness. He adds to support his remarks of the documents in appendix, like charts, figures or telegrams. He places as a defender of the traditional French values, in patriotic fighting for the size of his country, and the first sentences of these Mémoires reflect already its national pride and its vision of France:
All my life, I had a certain idea of France. The feeling inspires it as well as to me the reason. What there is in me, of emotional naturally imagines France, the such princess of the tales or the Madonna with the frescos of the walls, as dedicated to an imminent and exceptional destiny. I have, of instinct, the impression that Providence created it for completed successes or exemplary misfortunes. If it occurs that the mediocrity marks, however, his actions, I test of it the feeling of an absurdity anomaly, ascribable with the faults of the French, not with the genius of the fatherland. But as, the positive side of my spirit convinces me as France is really itself only in the forefront; that, only, of vast companies are likely to compensate for the leavens of dispersion which its people carries in itself; that our country, such as it is, among the others, such as they are, must, under penalty of mortal danger, to aim high and to be held right. In short, with my direction, France cannot be France without the size.
The lyricism and the quality of the writer appear in several passages, often émotionnellement strong, where de Gaulle deploys a language worthy of the traditional great authors which he likes and which he quotes sometimes. This is particularly obvious in its description of the Libération of Paris and its descent of the Fields-Élysées of August 26th, 1944:
Ah! It is the sea! An huge crowd is massed on both sides roadway. Perhaps two million hearts. The roofs also are black of world. With all the windows pile up compact groups, shovel-mixes with flags. Clusters of people are fixed on ladders, masts, reverberators. So far my sight carries, it is only one alive swell, in the sun, under the tricolor one. I go to foot. It is not the day to pass a review where the weapons shine and sound the brass bands. It is a question, today, of returning to itself, by the spectacle of its joy and the obviousness of its freedom, people which were, yesterday, crushed by the defeat and dispersed by the constraint. Since each one of those which are there has, in its heart, selected Charles de Gaulle like recourse of her sorrow and symbol of its hope, it is absolutely necessary he sees it, familiar and fraternal, and that at this sight the national unit resplendisse. I thus go, moved and quiet, in the middle of the inexpressible exultation of crowd, under the storm of the voices which make resound my name, trying, with measurement, to pose my glances on each flood of this tide so that the sight of all could enter my eyes, raising and lowering the arms to answer the acclamations. It occurs, in this moment, one of these miracles of the national conscience, one of this epic of France, which sometimes, to length them centuries, comes to illuminate our historie. In this community, which is only one thought, only one dash, only one cry, the differences are erased, the individuals disappear. Innumerable French which I approach tower tower, with Star, the Roundabout, with the Harmony, in front of the Town hall, on the square of the cathedral, if you knew as you are similar. You, the so pale children, who trépignez and shout of joy; you, women, carrying so much sorrows, which throw me cheers and smiles; you, men, flooded of a a long time forgotten pride who shout me your mercy; you, the old people who made to me honor of your tears. Ah! How you resemble each other! And me, center of this outburst, I feel to fulfill a function which exceeds very high my person, to be used as instrument with the destiny.
In the same way, its grandiloquent style and its qualities of portraitist (sometimes sour) appear in moral description that it draws up Maréchal Pétain the shortly after their last meeting on June 14th, 1940, whereas this one will be invited to take the head of France demolished and capitulating and that him even is on the point of launching its Appel of June 18th:
What a running involved it and towards what a fatal destiny! All the career of this man of exception had been a long effort of repression. Too much to trust for the intrigue, too extremely for the mediocrity, too ambitious to be go-getter, it nourished in his loneliness a passion to dominate, lengthily hardened by the conscience of its own value, the cross-pieces met, the contempt which it had of the others. Military glory, formerly, had lavished its bitter caresses to him. But it had not filled it, fault of having liked it only. And here that, suddenly, in the extreme winter of its life, the events offered to its gifts and its pride the occasion, awaited so much! to open out without limits; in a condition, however, it is that it accepted the disaster like bulwark of its rise and decorated it with its glory. Despite everything, I am convinced that in other times, the Pétain marshal would not have agree to cover purple in the national abandonment. I am sure, in any case, that as a long time as it was itself, it had taken again the road of the war as soon as it could see that he had been mistaken, that the victory remained possible, that France would have its share there. But, alas! the years under the envelope, had corroded its character. The age delivered it to the operations of skilful people to cover its majestic lassitude. Old age is a shipwreck. So that nothing was saved to us, the old age of the Pétain marshal was going to be identified with the shipwreck of France.
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