When the lycee Febus, clad in brick and soft local sandstone, is being inaugurated, the Eiffel Tower is under construction : gothic architecture and the Renaissance inspire this important place of departemental learning; visteria and honeysuckle are lazing on the outer railings and the main courtyard harbours langourous plantations. The state lycée Gaston Febus has a good reputation : Belgium, Andorra, Spain, not to count the Aude, send it pupils, among them Roget d’Alet France, Vine-grower of Limoux, Pistol of Andorra or Jean Radamès who taught the general Bietdase the 3 time waltz and who only has the surname Radamès, much to his annoyance, as he regrets himself, because his “grandmother went to be fucked in Spain”. The Pathé Frères Disc dealer Radamès will vote right.
Comes the war of 1939 and the normal years, as the old people say.
Outside Sabardu station, fixed to the ground on my short legs, I watch marching past a section of German SS paratroopers, disguised like for a parade and very solidly surrounded by the French army : Vicars, farmers’ wives with a basket full of eggs on one arm, peasants, shepherds, nuns, wearing “Berrets” and Women’s coifs : they were caught in the upper valleys while on a mission of sabotage, in spite of speaking Gascon as well - at least that’s what they had been told in Tübingen - as Adhemar de Rocafissada such as quoted by Carl Appel in his Chrestomathie Provençale. On the N20 road, two steps away from the camp of Vernet, mobile guards arrest my uncle Paul in his Juva 4 for over speeding. At this time, Sartre and Simone are dining splendidly in the Hostellerie de la Barbacane, the very night before the declaration of the conflict. 22 November 1942 the Germans cross the demarcation line. 18 September 1943, the maquisards of upper Pereille (in memory of Ramon) first give battle to the occupant who kills two of their men.
12 November 1943, the railway line Ax-Toulouse is broken up in several places : the crates of pastis and sugar are immobilized for a few moments under the bridge of Fouïch, prompting us astonishment, while the most lively among us hit the target on the table in the cafés of Villote. 3 December 1943, the Germans arrest the Concierge of the Lycée, who does not manage to explain to them the origin of the pamphlets found in his lodge, pamphlets not to the glory of the great Germany. The Concierge of the Lycee will not come back from Buchenwald.14 December 1943, the Germans arrest the Architect and departemental boss of the wrong-thinkers: they kill him the saxon way. The boarders of the upper classes are polishing the backside of the boarders of the lower classes : order and cleanliness are ruling. The indisciplined dunderhead Jean Bl. treats me like a “Cynocephalus” : it is necessary to say that, in primary school, I myself, puny person, having served as a punching-ball for Gallo - who himself served as a sparring-partner for the publican Brochant who himself took part in the European championships in medium weight against Nino Benvenuti (in Milan, if you please !) who himself fought the world-championships against Monzon - my blood curdled a little and I put an end to the boasting of this local gang-leader : he was not to bear me a grudge ! In the middle of December 1943, an assistant in education is deported.
In April 1944, the Germans requisition the south-facing part of the Lycée : there is a hint of cohabitation when one of the occupants, 17 years of age, tries to explain to us in his dialect that his arm stayed in Stalingrad. The mayor of Fouïch, who is professeur in Pidgin-English, hesitates to teach us the language of Churchill. Walking to the stadium, we sing “Maréchal, nous voilà ...” (Marshal, here we are). 6 June, “They” land. 20 August, a German column is attacked in the rocks of Prayols. 21-22 August, another column of Mongols sets fire to the village Rimont and to Castelnau, because abruptly confronted with the guerilleros of the maquis of la Crouzette and a few others.
But in the night from 7-8 August, following the wise counsel of the BBC, brave major “Labige” jumped onto Crossenbourg - a village whose Vicar burns the breasts (which he wouldn’t see ?) of his female parishioners - prelude to the liberation of the town of Foix and the Lycée. Labige will celebrate with the champagne presented by the German colonel in charge of the garrison, before shutting himself up in his hotel-room, key turned three times (he says so himself, in full, to the local press), in order to protect himself from the ardour of the Fuxean women who wanted to rape him. Fifty years later, gallant Marcel - retired in person, but not in tongue - is to embrace the autochthon wife of an Automedon of the time, the latter all proud of the commemorative distinction conferred on his beautiful half.
20 October 1944, beginning of term and return of our English teacher, a prisoner (whose Scottish lady teaches us the Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns, while warning us against this capercaillie who wrote licentious verse, drank a lot, produced illegitimate children and nonetheless proved capable of writing good English when down in the dumps or when denouncing the frolicking in the hay of the local pastor, pastor who, in his turn, had accused him of fornication in the name of Heaven. Rabbie died at 37 : there is a divine justice, was the conclusion of the nice Scottish lady). The deputy head, for his part, is to patrol in the Quérigut in search of precious chip potatos for the boarders (in January 1944, and because of her husband’s absence, the wife of the Deputy Head had left for Ravensbrück).
1st February1945, a house-master from Appamea and who had been deported, dies at Dachau.
1945 : test in Greek with the “Barbic”. Nicole et Monique exert pressure with their nymphlike thighs to extract from me the secrets of the translation from Greek. In English, we study the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens ; Mrs Pine-wood, mother of a pupil, causes all well-born humanists to turn round as she is passing.
1946 : an arts teacher washes his five daughters with a hose-pipe in the garden of his house which stands right above the N20 road. On the day of inspection he takes out and reads a text interpretation which had been buried in his satchel for ages : the “Stew-Stirrer” finds that very good ; the pupils had never imagined that their teacher could think so loftily ...
1947 : it is the month of May, it is mild, the May-beetles are flying among the horse-chestnut trees in the schoolyard. In the covered part of the yard we are engaged in a heated game of “pelota” with the future scrum-half of the Racing-Club de France, when our French teacher appears : the Stew-Stirring Blockhead Cothurnus (he was in fact our French teacher’s teacher !) has just arrived and Diderot is expecting us. Everyone wipes their forehead, Cothurnus will be the only one to go into raptures over the greatness of the XVIIIth century. Cothurnus will congratulate his former pupil and will congratulate us, too, because we have a very good French teacher, which is absolutely true. Next day, our French teacher, in order to thank us, will read some Rabelais to us after sending out the girls.
1948 : the Academy Inspector asks his niece to ask me whether I would be willing to let him read my philosophy-homework. He had obtained 12, I had a bit more : he will thus end up as the Senior General Inspector ... During study-time, Roger Bernard comes to ask me to explain to him the essays in philosophy : he re-enlists in the class, will end up as the Principal of the Council of the Sages and be named in the Honours List ... Fat Ermessen, with breasts covering her entire frontage, extracts from her bra 64 pages of an essay : the geography teacher finds that this is an “excellent copy”. Mrs Ermessen will be subject to wealth-tax ... An assistant in education dances, at the Appamea Festival, on the Castella plateau. Another assistant in education pays a flying visit behind my back to fill up at Florestan’s demijohn which is flowing over with Blanquette de Limoux. Florestan is burning for Charles Trenet and sings Y a de la joie ... (There is joy). Delpi, who will become a psychiatrist, borrows my rubber to the sound of an opera tune. My schoolmate Pey tells me that he has surprized a third assistant in education in the infirmary, busy coupling up an Upper Sixth girl. Pey asks me to be discreet, especially not to talk about it to the latter’s daughter (she is in our section !), because her father has just come back from deportation.
We are taking part with the Lycée’s Sports Society, in a rugby Quarter final at St Couserans : the international Goodriche, “berret” screwed on his head, is awaiting us at the coach’s arrival and howls at his lambs : “ kill them all ! ”.
“ This really nearly happened ”, the secretary of the Sports Society reassures us.
I pay the Bursary my boarding fees and go back to so-called “active” life after a brief stay in a preparatory class where the philosopher Taquin (six daughters, he) refuses to correct an essay on Voltaire and the Good Fathers because he has written a work : Pour “bien” comprendre la pensée de Saint Thomas d’Aquin (Understanding “well” the thinking of Saint Thomas d’Aquin), pious masterwork countered by someone unorthodox in a diabolical lampoon : Pour “mieux” comprendre la pensée de Thomas d’Aquin (Understanding “better” the thinking of Thomas Aquinas). Before starting his Catechesis Lecture, the professeur Taquin takes out of his briefcase a letter from the Pope who congratulates him ... The English teacher (or Scottish, for the purist), who pronounces the words “as corrrrectly as the natives of England”, sees himself obliged to repeat the word “perhaps” fifteen times before a class entirely satisfied with the demands of the Stew Stirrer-Blockhead. The Scottish professeur ends all his text interpretations with a peremptory : It is the masteurr-piece of a masteurr ! - Of course, Sirrah !
I hear la Traviata at the Capitole, and in summer I discover the sea.
Claude d’Esplas (Les Merlufleaux)
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