I've completed a working translation of Jean Grave's "The Adventures of Nono," a children's book written for the Ferrer Schools. It's a strange and fascinating novel, with a style and vocabularly not quite appropriate in some places for most children, but with sections that seem well wrought for that purpose. I'm going to have to think about this one a bit before I make final decisions about those questions of style and vocabulary in the revision stage, but for now I think this is a pretty good representation of Grave's work.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Sunday, December 8, 2013
“My father and my mother rested after having begotten me. The spirit of divination of the one, the aspirations of revolt of the other are mingled in my blood. The marrow of my bones screams. I suffer everything that this pen writes.”
Ernest Cœurderoy — Days of Exile.
Cursed be the hour that I was born! Cursed be the morning star which watched over my mother as she was in labor! Cursed be the first bird that greeted that deplorable day! Cursed be the shepherd and cursed the vineyard keeper who dried the tears of the dew on the hillsides of Bourgogne! Cursed be the midwife who did not smother me in the passage! Cursed be the dog who licked my stains! Cursed, the attentive friends who came to compliment my father because a son had been born to him!!
What were the waves doing? Where was the thunderbolt? Oh! That they did not carry me off to the void! Why have the ice and snow of January spared me? Why have they bathed me with perfumed water? Why has my poor mother given me her milk?
Ah! What afflictions and pains they would have spared me, the one who, without remorse, would have buried me beneath the black earth! My soul would not bleed today revealing to men the appalling misfortunes which will weigh on them!
What I saw one night in the autopsy room
“The Dead are not far from us; they are not in another world.”
Ernest Cœurderoy — Days of Exile.
I was a poor student; I was preoccupied with Death, and I dissected cadavers.
One night, I worked in the amphitheater, as usual. And behold, a dead man rose up from the cold table. His stature was gigantic; he was brown and strong; his eyes were full of sparks, and flames came whistling from his mouth. His beauty was supernatural; he was not yet thirty years old. They had decapitated him that morning; his finger was applied to the stump of his neck, and blood flowed all the length of his body.
“Little student!” he said to me, touch my blood, touch my flesh and carve me, if you dare, with your pretty little instruments mounted with shell. I will not cry out, for I no longer feel the suffering. I am happier than you, poor boy, who works all through the night, in order to return to the people with a doctor’s degree.”
And he called me toward him, this singular dead man! And I trembled like a leaf. And I touched his blood and flesh, which were cold. But as he had spoken to me so courteously and with a discernment so uncommon among the living, I hesitated to sink my scalpel in his skin. He noticed this.
“You tremble,” he said to me, “little student! Yet every day you act brave by coming here, because your masters have said that we are truly dead.
“And when I pass my hand through your hair, now your hair stands on end and you do not dare dissect me.”
And he laughed at me, showing two rows of teeth whiter than ivory, and he repeated: Cut then, little student!
I lit my pipe at the great stove stuffed with fat that we white-hot. And behold: I heard the laugh louder. I blustered, and, averting my eyes from his, I gave him a blow to the heart. There gushed from the would a jet of warm blood which covered me in blood, from my toes to the tips of my hair.
And I fell backwards. And my head found itself close to his on the cold table.
Then he leaned over my mouth and said to me: “You think yourself very learned, poor little one, because your teachers have told you that the dead are nothing but a fistful of dust and you will repeat that in the salons to give nervous fits to the little blonde ladies. I wish you would say hello for me to your teachers, and tell them that there is more ignorance under their gilt toques than under the coats of the long-eared asses.
“In truth, I tell you, the dead return. The universal existence is only maintained by means of eternal transformations. Me, whom they thought to bury in the depths of nothingness, I am more alive than them. I was yesterday; I called myself Christ, and I humiliated the doctors! I am today; and I call myself an assassin, one condemned to death! I will be tomorrow; and, powerful revolutionary, I will despoil the great of a fortune unjustly acquired!
“Little student! Do you want to repent for having wounded me? Do you want to stitch closed the wound in my heart?”
And he shook me rudely in saying that. And his mouth remained close against mine.
“You are young and have a pleasant face,” he began again; “you work with courage; you know all that a medical student of your age could know. I have need of you; don’t you want to enter by half in my revolt against Civilization, instead of boring yourself here with these corpses?”
And he placed my hand on the wound in his heart. And behold: my hand shook with a frightening tremor, my whole body shook, and I rose upright on my.
And I repented of the evil that I had done to this great dead man. And I passed the stitches through the lips of his still-bleeding wound; and I contended with his flesh, and the little blood vessels, and the little nerves. And all grew again at the same instant; and the blood no longer suspended in its course.
And there where his wound was, I saw shine a red Cross and Level.
And behold: the Pact which joined me to him was sworn on the pink scar, on the red Cross and Level!
“Son of Man, eat your bread with emotion, and drink your water with torment and grief.”
Since that night, I no longer belong to myself. My temples throb; my eyes are filled with blood; my brow streams sweat, my hands tremble, my legs give way beneath me. At night, all through the black night, terrible threats resonate in my ear, — I must repeat to men what the Revolution cried out to me.
Nothing delights me any longer but the noise of thunder and the flash of lightning; my heart no longer thrills except before some bloody tatters! — I must repeat to men what the Revolution cried out to me.
It is that the Revolution comes. When societies are in decline, there always rise, in the midst of them, beings who suffer and cry out: Jerusalem, Babylon, Nineveh, Troy, Rome, Athens will perish by the sword! For the cup of their iniquities overflows, and the time draws near. — I must repeat to men what the Revolution cried out to me.
I am of the race of Amos, of Cassandra, of Isaiah, of Savonarola, of Luther, of Cazotte, of all the prophets, of all the apostles who cried out in vain: Woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth!... and that the inhabitants of the earth have stone, that they have rolled into the wet ditches, and that they have cut off in the end. I am of the irritable race of prophets and savage poets. — I must repeat to men what the Revolution cried out to me.
I am a foreigner to my country and my time. I am a citizen of the earth; my homeland is the future. The hatreds of this century are held in store for me. I have lost the little health that remained to me.
I am the one that they accuse of spreading despair among men, the one they call mad, that they defame, that they condemn, that the pursue everywhere and who arouses no last regret in them. And yet, I never say anything but what I see.
I am the one that the fever consumes, that his own entrails devour. And I wallow in my suffering, for my voice must resound more bitterly than the trumpet over the gasping nations.
I am the one whose brain boils through painful insomnias, and whose blood issues from his mouth in the morning. — Happy is the one who gives to Liberty a token of his ardent love!
I am the one who will confound the savants and moralists before the people, because it is necessary that false knowledge and false philanthropy finally disappear.
Some have taken me for a docile instrument in the hands of party chiefs; others for an ambitious hypocrite; these for a doctor, and those for a philosopher. I am none of those things. I am a free man among slaves.
I have recognized the worth of political camaraderie. My frankness has scandalized all those who took pride it knowing me when it pleased me to be mute. I have measured the narrow circle of family affections; my parents have feared me: it was guaranteed with my first breath.
I am the one who rises early and who has seen the morning star. — The man who sleeps neglects his labor.
I am the one who first cried out: Decline of France and of the West! — Invasion of the Barbarians of the North! — Death of Civilization ! — Birth of Socialism! — Regeneration of Europe by the Sword! — Palingenesic Transformation of Humanity!
I am the one whose voice was heard already when it called the Cossacks to the shores of the Bosphorus. I give today a sign of life so that those who have ears will hear; tomorrow, if the strength remains to me, I will complete my Revelation.
I am the one who distinguished from afar the roar of the Thunder and who sees the great Sword blaze across the leaden clouds.
Nothing will weary my persistence; I will do all that I have resolved to do.
France will not kill me with ridicule, and I will kill France by my predictions.
I am the one who sees the reddening Sun approach the trembling Earth, and consume it; the one who sees the sea overflow its banks and only return to its bed after having swept away the town, the forests and the crops.
I am the one who hears the thunder groan like a thousand thunders, and the grains of hail whistle like shrapnel.
The one who sees, by the fields, the sacks of gold, the broken columns of the palaces and temples, and the men blasted.
I'm the one who delights in this deluge, and to be born in time to see the earth soaked in the blood of the civilized, and their bones stuck at the corners of their properties to replace the boundary stones.
I must repeat to men the cry of the Revolution, — that cry that harasses me and leaves me no rest; that cry that takes away food and drink, that goes to bed and rises with me! I will not rest quiet until I have translated it, if such is possible for me, into a human language.
The other young people drank and made love; they sang and concerned themselves with their affairs; they lived peacefully in the bosom of their families: they did well; let them be happy. — Me, I am the one whose words will be repeated and whose vision will come to pass. — I must repeat what the Revolution cried out to me.
The Angel of the Revolution.
“The young people see visions.”
In my troubled sleep, the Angel of the Revolution appeared to me. He approached me, and my whole body tensed when he put his hand on my shoulder.
And the Angel of the Revolution said to me: “Take this pen in your right hand, and gird this sword around your body.
“And let this pen wear out racing across the paper; let that sword be chipped in the combat; let your arms wither in the labor!
“March from the rising until the setting of the sun, and pass the nights before you table.”
And I examined the Pen and the Sword. And behold: the Pen was burning with an inextinguishable fire, and the Sword shone with radiance that my eyes could not bear.
And the Angel said: “Put down the sword until the bugles ring out; it is still not time to strike. But seize the pen.”
And I held out my hand, and I took the pen, trembling. But it burned my flesh, and I uttered screams of pain.
Then the Angel said to me: “Plunge your hand into the vase whose flame I have kept since the beginnings of the centuries.”
And behold! The vase that he presented to me was made of bronze. Within it gleamed alcohol and ether, the perfumed oils and precious essences prepared, on the mountains, by the kisses of the sun. And a thousand tongues of flame, strong as the blood of the bulls, escaped over the edges of the vase.
“Plunge your hands into the fiery water,” the angel said again, “and do not leave them there longer than it takes for the swallow to moisten its wing in Lake Léman.”
And I plunged my hand into the burning vase. And I pulled it back scorched like an oak beam that the fire has devoured.
“Write now,” said the Angle, “for the time is approaching.”
And as I was afraid, and I shivered: “Be without fear,” he added. “What I will announce to men is terrible, and the future is blacker than the crow’s wing. But you are only a reed between my hands, and if you hesitate, I will break you.
“And I will choose some other who knows how to look Death and Desolation in the face.”
Friday, July 26, 2013
Today or Tomorrow.
Everything is good which strikes or stings.
So much the better if these bandits have finished their work. The scaffold has started the party, and the fire will beat its wings over the apotheosis.
The blood of Ravachol splashes, from his false collar to his cuffs, the cold man of the Élysée.
The Élysée! That’s the spot that draws the looks! From it the grand finale, the final bouquet will rise into the air, and the cross of Our Lady of the Slaughter will be the streetlamp.
The sun has risen red in the prologue, and red it will set.
Yes, so much the better. It is necessary that this be finished, that we plow these accursed institutions like a field, in order to dry up the blood.
Let the slaves, more debased than ever, shout some Marseillaises. An instant is enough to change these docile dogs into wolves, and the winds blow liberty.
Pompeii danced when Vesuvius opened.
The trails of blood left by Deibler from one city to another indicate the road of the executioners, all the way to Montbrison where they slaughtered the dynamiter, the rebel, the anarchist who sang at the guillotine.
That is what is truly beautiful, the vision of those who die for justice; on the hideous trunk of the gallows, on the block, their necks clasped by the garrote or engaged in the infamous half-moon of the scaffold, they show that they are equal to the punishment that is offered by singing through the ordeal.
In the luminous bay that cuts into the night of death, isn’t there beyond the free unknown, the taking possession of the world by humanity, the new dawn illuminating new times;
Like a magnet, limitless progress attracting men from ideal to ideal, as if from milestone to milestone, towards the future;
On the earth washed as after the rainstorms, an intense life germinating on the buried past;
Some still uncertain dawns covering in the infinite distance, some eras of harmony, science and love which, glimpsed, are worth eternity; isn’t that enough to reason laugh at the torments?
It is fortunate that under the current circumstances pity is cowardly, or we would always have them.
It is better this way. They have wished for it. The merciless verdicts demand as a response: Everything is good that strikes or stings!
The crumbs thrown to the crowd in these provocative celebrations are covered with Ravachol’s blood; in this way, on the nights of the hunt, they throw to the dogs bread soaked in the blood of the quarry.
He, dreaming of the happiness of all, has passionately thrown his life in the faces of the executioners.
So much the better if the anger mounts. The intensity of the battle will be short; there will be no more small means, no more foolish qualms!
The Deiblers of the Élysée, by the way, will prevent nothing. Let it be in just a little while or tomorrow, what does it matter!
When so many implacable wills have the same aim, so many convinced men have the same untiring patience, the same scorn for death, then the moment is imminent.
Each one, doing their work in their turn, will be worth a thousand, and the little Ravachols will not have time to grow much before the deliverance.
The streets, by then, will no longer be changed into slaughterhouses. It is the slaughterhouses which will be blown up.
It is not with wishes that the man of the stone age seized the cavern where the big cats peacefully devoured their prey.
Let each, like Ravachol, act according to his conscience, deploring the unwitting victims without letting themselves be diminished by hesitation; it is a lofty thought: the deliverance of the world.
Salute to the next flash of lightning thundering over the palaces, to the immense blaze that will end the orgy!
Nothing gives more to the struggle than the torture of a proud, brave man—it is no longer the time to cry for the dead; they must be avenged—this time it will be vengeance for all and always.
This is the battle without mercy where the lost children of liberty offer themselves joyfully.
L’Endehors, No. 63, 17 juillet 1892.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur ; revised July 26, 2013.]
 The line appears in Zo d’Axa’s article, “14 juillet sanglant,” L’Endehors N°62, 10 juillet 1892
 For hanging.
 Anatole Deibler, French executioner from 1885 to 1939, responsible for the executions of Ravachol, Auguste Vaillant, Emile Henry, Sante Caserio, three members of the Bonnot Gang, and a total of 395 men.
Friday, March 22, 2013
Speech pronounced by Paschal Grousset
at the grave of Verdure
My friends, an awful bit of news came yesterday to strike us with astonishment and sadness. A man that we loved, that we esteemed, that we venerated like a father, had unexpectedly succumbed to the attacks of a sudden illness. Just a few days ago, we greeted him with a friendly word when we met him along this shore that he frequented, calm and smiling in the midst of misfortune, with every appearance of strength and health. Today, we pay our last respects to his corpse: [Augustin] Verdure will never again see France. He died, the doctors tell us, of a terrible malady which is called “general paralysis;” but, my friends, I tell you that he died of a far more terrible disease, which is called “deportation.”
At the age of rest and retirement, at a hour when the tired body and mind need to stop at the end of the road and contemplate the path traveled, Verdure, like all of us, was violently torn from his interests, his habits, his affections, from everything that gave charm and happiness to life. More painfully, if it is possible, than most, he was personally stricken. On the even of embarkation, his son-in-law, the natural and legal support of all that the old man left behind him, and of a grandchild still to be born, his son-in-law was dead, suddenly, in the same cell as [Théophile] Ferré, to whom he had brought advice based on his legal experience. Then, misfortune would have it that, since his departure from Brest, for ten long months, our venerable friend would remain without any news of his relations. Finally, if we must tell everything — and why shouldn’t we speak our saddest truths before the grave of this honest man? — the depressing spectacle that has too often given, even here, to our adversaries, men unworthy of the honor of being banished, the scandal of the failures and disorders that you know, these sources of bitterness had come to mix with deep personal sufferings. It was more than enough to crush that noble, pure, sensitive and proud heart. He was broken without making any complaint, without breathing a sigh.
My friends, those among us to whom it will be given to return to their hearth can say that they witnessed the death of a just man. The entire life of the citizen Verdure has been dedicated to the people, for which reason he came to die so far from his own. I wanted to tell you the detailed history of that life; but I lack the documents, and I must limit myself to a sketch in broad strokes.
Led early by a decided vocation towards the career of teaching, Verdure devoted himself to the most modest of tasks: he distributed to the children of his country, in the Pas-de-Calais, that primary instruction, the most necessary of all, and which is most lacking; in the accomplishment of his duties, he bore an untiring devotion, the rare patience that you have known in him, and which was in him one of the ornaments of the most solid and varied professional knowledge. It is there that in the heart of his village, among his family, his school and his garden, he lived his best years. This happiness would not last. Our friend had the fault of separating religious questions from school questions, of wanting to be a teacher and not a church-warden: the reaction of 1850 and the men who received their watchword from Mr. de Falloux, could not tolerate such detestable principles. Verdure was dismissed, with so many others, during that famous massacre of teachers, which has given primary instruction, in our country, a wound of which our latest disasters have measured the depth.
The career of teaching being closed to him, he had to think of other ways to use his multiples aptitudes. Verdure went to Paris and found, not without difficulty, work as a bookkeeper. But, if his daily labor belonged to his family, his leisure was always for the people: he dedicated it entirely from them on to the study of the questions of labor, of these great problems of the modern world, which we stupidly think to solve by shooting or deporting them, when it would not be too much effort, with the intelligence, amity, and good faith of all to resolve them. Verdure acquired in these matters, and especially on the questions of association, a competence based o an imposed mass of observations and experimental facts, patiently accumulated by him during the eighteen years of harmful servitude which has cost France so much generous blood, two provinces, all its treasures, and the first rank among nations.
It is with these credentials that he joined, in 1869, the Marseillaise; I will astonish no one by saying that he was for us, in that journal of so rapid and tragic destiny, a collaborator distinguished on more than one account by the excellence and precision of the documents which he prepared, as much as for the uprightness of his character and the complete reliability of his commerce. Seeing the misfortune of his country: none felt them more keenly than Verdure, and the sufferings of the siege, none contributed more to ease them. His perfect knowledge of the needs and miseries of that heroic Parisian population, always decimated, but never beaten, naturally designated him for the municipal functions in the eleventh arrondissement, where he had lived for long years. I was for him like a big family. The voters of that constituency sent him, on March 20, to the Commune.
From that date citizens, I have nothing to tell you of the life of our friend: it became public and was never lost to your view. You saw him seated in the Councils of the Commune, bringing his eminent qualities, a great modesty and precious special knowledge, a conciliatory character joined with an inflexible rectitude of judgment and principles. You see him, on the other hand, presiding over the difficult administration of that populous arrondissement, where so many regrets will meet the news of his end, and giving to that weighty task every moment that that the assembly of the Hôtel de Ville left to him. Then, when the hour of defeat was sounded, Verdure escaped as by a miracle from the death that struck the best among us. Verdure was taken, led to Versailles, brought before a military tribunal, inscribed on the tables of proscription. History when it reviews this trial, will judge the judges; it will be astonished by the singular crime reproached by them in this gentle defendant, who looked them full in the face, strong in his acts, his conscience and his honesty. Do you know what that crime was, my friends? Ah! Don’t search for it in the Code, for you will not find it there: it is called the crime of philanthropy. “Verdure,” the report of his accuser says literally, “Verdure is a utopian philanthropist...” A utopian if you wish, citizens, but a philanthropist for sure! Yes, Verdure was a philanthropist, a friend of men, a friend of the people; he wanted the good and the just; if suffered from the sorrows of others and from the evils of humanity; he wanted to cure them, or at least to relieve them; it is to that we that he gave what he had of strength, intelligence, courage and life: it is for that cause he has died as he lived, as a free man, as a son of the Revolution.
We, citizens, who accompany this good man to that grave, where his wife and daughter cannot come to weep, let his life serve us as an example and his death as a lesson! Do you know what I was thinking of just now, seeing the long spiral of the cortege that we have made for him uncoil on the flanks of these barren hills, seeing all the heavy hearts and all the damp eyes, looking back again towards that immensity of the oceans that separates us from our homeland? I thought of some very different cortèges that you will have been able to see, like me, spread along some avenues of our Paris, pompous funerals of some power of the day. I saw again those cars draped with velvet and silk, this plumed litter, those horses adorned with silver and all those social vanities accumulated to dress up the dead. But I also thought of the ordinary impressions of the crowd suite passage of this pomp, to those impressions which are so often summarized in two words: indifference and scorn. I heard them recall the titles of the dead man, enumerate his positions, evaluate his wealth, count the perjuries of his life; and there was always someone to say out loud what many thought: one villain less!
How different it is here, my friends! A poor casket carried by some exiled laborers; on that casket, a crown of wild flowers; for that casket, a hole dug in the sand of an isle lost beyond the borders of the world. But, behind that casket, a unanimous support of sad friends, a concert of regrets and affection, some mute sorrows and some expansive despairs, mourning on all the faces and even on the very ones who guard us, forced to respect, grasped by the majesty of this death!
However, these men, escorted in such dissimilar manners, the one towards a marble necropolis, the other to this desert, they both started from the same point; they both emerged from the French nation as our fathers have rebuilt it on the principle of equality; both were chosen by the free suffrage of their fellow citizens; both had their hour of triumph; both, in all, went to the same end, to unavoidable crucible where the immortal matter goes to melt, to return in a new form in the great current of life... Why is it that the sentiments awakened by the view of their funerals differ so profoundly? Do you ask it, my friends? It comes from an abyss which is found between them and of which the masses have a profound sense. One made politics a stepstool towards fortune and honors; his thoughts have all been individual; he has deserted the cause of the people to serve that of his own selfishness; he has made his place by base acts; he has raised himself by treasons; he has ruled over some corpses. The other has only seen in politics an instrument of progress; he has entered the lists with generous ideas and guarded them up to the end; his life has been a life of self-denial and struggle, of renunciation, suffering, and sorrows nobly borne, from faithfulness to duty... And that is why the justice of the world comes to the threshold of death, avenger for the one, restorer for the other. That is why the remains of the one, before being cast to the ridicule of history, already encounter on their way the ridicules of opinion; — while the other, the vanquished, the exile, sleeps in that inestimable peace, a satisfied conscience, and, in that glory, the sorrow of the people.
Source : Achille Ballière, La déportation de 1871 : souvenirs d'un evadé de Nouméa (1889) : 415-419.
Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur