The Paris-Strasbourg is gliding along the green Marne. The water is shivering at the first shine of dawn and everyone, male and female, seizing their satchel as Château-Thierry approaches ... The descendants of Jean de la Fontaine stretch out in their nightshirt : are they as happy as the lusty people of the Contes ? Concerning descendants, Mr Lieutenant of Wolf-Hunting, teacher at the College in the old days, will kindly assure me that at Chaury are known only descendants of ... Madame de la Fontaine.
7 December, 11 a.m. –
Teacher Carvel makes them “sing” in the neighbouring classroom - to exhaustion. “ Noch einmal ! Again, again “, he barks at them (if a dog had barked like that, it would have been hanged !) with vocal chords such as a Feldwebel’s of the German army at the time of the great epoch. Professeur Carvel, who in his old age took a wife young in every respect, calls his fellow-players as indicated on the programme, runs his horn into everything that budges, as a result of twenty years of practising in the parisian establishments on the left bank, and spends gastronomical holidays in Alsace, with Babeau - that’s his young female - who is willing, ardent and beautiful and good for the amorous battle.
From the classroom window, the roofs of the former College are visible, the red curtains of the dormitory windows and the green shutters of Si j’étais riche (If I was a rich man) ... and beyond, well beyond, the shady forests, the rich countryside, the rivers stocked with fish and the vast prairies undulating as far as la Ferté-Milon.
In the Strasbourg-Paris, finished reading this vintage novel, hogwash by a Sorbonicole with a pallid face, ex-teacher at the lycée Papi and lecturer in the big stores, tale of an oflagophonetic captivity in Austria and of his stirrings for escape, the lot dusted with such a profusion of silly remarks, bloated with unctuous autosatisfaction, that the fellow, in his chair, hair dyed, fingernails cared for, making eyes at his female listeners in the front row, shines lusterless in his fairly well-cut suit. His reasonably biting verve caused him to be admitted to the society of the people of Spirit, secretarial department ... But already this “hard nut”, as says Carvel, clanks around on the points of the Eastern station - highclass gastronomical buffet and buffers in the shape of a pachydermal backside. “Bundle of bones”, teacher of arts, with limbs compared to which an ant’s seem plump, unfolds himself in length and bumps against the knees of Low-Size, master gymnast with gladiator shoulders in want of a crowd. And everybody back to their cage-of-daily-things, while down there, in Champagne, peasants and female tongue-wielders are sipping old-fashioned soup and the museum goes to sleep until next morning.
Monday 8 April –
House of Jean de la Fontaine in Château-Thierry. Like J.C. multiplying the loaves of bread, J.-A., in the House-Museum of the Fabulist, multiplies the crusts.
Friday 17 April –
On the train Chaury-Paris, Mrs Rustic, science teacher and daughter of a field officer, calls her father a “bastard”, then speaks of her husband, assistant at the Faculty, who finds her “half-witted” because on a day when someone was knocking on the door of their bedroom where his male was naked and she saying mechanically “ come in !”, the maid had seen the calf which she should not have seen ...
16 February –
Lunch at professeur Carvel’s, on the 6th floor of a street in the Quartier latin. A succession of small attic rooms, nest of this former deputy in education and Babeau, his blond wife, twenty-five years his junior, ex-serving lady in a clothes shop, who is now at the till of a boutique selling frippery on the Grands Boulevards. She clucks, he scolds her. She looks at him, he smiles with this half foxy, half porky expression, which in his case translates the most momentary good-heartedness. On the shelves, the works of marxist philosophy; on the table, an enormous joint of beef flanked by a profusion of wines and liqueurs. “It will be necessary to change the butcher”, the master of the house is grumbling while sinking an enormous knife into the red meat. As for butchers, hasn’t he tried them, including the ones in the Normandy province where the Administration sent him for grazing. His wife dares smile : he stands up, he hurls abuse, he sits down again. After the coffee, he goes for his collection of Odéons, where sentimental popsongs pile up on the records of La Miss (“the Old Woman”, as he calls her), among them the J’ai fait ça en douce (I did that the gentle way) which prompts his immense jubilation. Then it’s the student repertory which at last unwrinkles the flabby cheeks of this old Escholier*, eternal Ferdinant Lop**, appointee in the civil service at the end of a long and grey career of mastering day school (doesn’t he present flowers to the Lady Wife of the Head, at the same time whispering the latest College gossip into the hollow of her eardrums and this in the hope of seeing his professional mark improve ?) ... The narrow staircase takes me back into the heart of the quartier latin which stretches out its tentacles as far as the attic of Mr Carvel.
Balance sheets of the fiscal year.
Common Market. Two Englishmen in their thirties, collapsed on the cold pavement outside the Prisunic Mozart, surrounded by beer cans and snuggled up to a warm dog, are doing the Channel : Rule Britannia !
Foreign affairs. Protesting against the French nuclear tests in the Pacific, the Australian union of the maids of honour in Canberra has decided to boycott fine lingerie Made in France : Melbourne and Sydney will join the movement. The singer Madonna and Miss Stone had already taken the lead. Will the Queen of England find herself without dessous downside up ?
Political economy (or Maastricht Treaty)
“ Her husband who does not earn anything
Does not give her the means
To have all she wants,
At last she makes a faux pas
And in order to have some Holland
She gives the netherland.”
Military economy (or the Stork are back)
“This place so hot ... and who could in one moment light the fuse of all the harquebuses in a regiment.”
“ That I lack gravity
That one cannot read me in class ?”
“ Some good, some middling, some bad still more
What can I do about it ? Thus it happens with every book.”
Morality, of Pierre Le Loyer (born in 1550)
“ The horse follows the mare, the bull loves the cow
And the ram attaches himself to the ewe only”.
The Strasbourg-Paris is gliding along the green Marne. The water is shivering at the first shades of dusk. Leaning on his elbows on the rail along the corridor, forehead against the cold glass, the traveller from afar will - perhaps - see, at the approach of Chaury, Master Fox sitting on his backside in some sloping meadow crowned by a dark wood from which rises the prattling of a tender Babette who laughs better than Bègue au château de Belin.
* a) Escholier = pupil in Old French
b) Raymond Escholier (1882 Paris - 1971 Nîmes), parliamentary journalist, Curator of the House of Victor Hugo and of the museum of the Petit Palais. Descending from a long line of lawyers of the Ariège, he spends his holidays in Mirepoix (Ariège). He is the friend of Raoul Lafagette who passes to him a small collection of poems by Marie Noël : Les Chansons et les Heures. Art critic at the Dépêche de Toulouse, he writes ambidextrously with his wife Marie-Louise Escholier : Dansons la Trompeuse, and Cantegril in the form of an opera-buffa (set to music by Roger Ducasse).
** Ferdinand Lop (1891 Marseille-1974 Saint-Sébastien-de-Morsent (Eure).
Journalist, cartoonist, English coach, writer, poet, humorist and French coffee bar philosopher (Cf : Quartier latin, les cafés littéraires, 1958), above all known for his perpetual candidatures at presidential elections and his slogans : “The tank that is the state needs the wheel of a Lop”. He is credited with the following thoughts and aphorisms : “The political parties are mushroom cultures on the back of the electorate”; “Politics is a woman whom one courts and whom one loves”; “This is not retreating, it is progressing towards the rear for strategic reasons”. He advocated the lengthening of the roadstead of Brest as far as Montmartre and the extension of the boulevard Saint-Michel as far as the sea (in both directions).” Recognizable by his shock of red hair, his spectacles, his little moustache, his big hat and his bow-tie, he harangued the students on boulevard Saint-Michel in pre- and postwar years.
Translation : Dagmar Coward Kuschke (Tübingen)