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5 The Terrible Years

1. Impossible to specify, estimates of deaths range from ten to thirty-five thousand. The current consensus gives the following estimates: three thousand killed in combat, seventeen thousand killed between 22 May and 15 June (the Communards executed fewer than one hundred hostages), and two thousand deaths in prison or in transport. In addition, more than forty-three thousand prisoners were tried over the next four years, of whom over forty-five hundred were condemned to hard labor in New Caledonia. Jules Vallès was one of almost five thousand lucky enough to escape into exile, principally in Belgium, England, and Switzerland. In contrast, after 1848, fifteen thousand arrests were made in Paris, and judgment after the coup d'état of 1851 concerned some twenty-six thousand people in all of France. See William Serman, La Commune de Paris (Paris: Fayard, 1986,) 512, 524, 527, 531, 538. General amnesty was not declared until 1880. The Communes that arose in the provinces (Lyon, Marseille, Le Creusot, Saint-Étienne) were crushed by the end of March 1871. For two months Paris stood alone against France. L'Année terrible is the title Hugo gave to the book of poems written from June 1870 to August 1871 and published to resounding success in April 1872. [BACK]

2. "Par le fait, depuis 89, il y a toujours eu un roi de France, et il n'y en a eu qu'un seul: c'est Paris. La France lui a été dévouée et obéissante, ne lui a refusé ni tributs, ni sang, ni sacrifices, ni caprices. Mais le moment est venu pour Paris de payer de sa personne. S'il veut conserver son empire, qu'il se gouverne en sage, qu'il obéisse en soldat, qu'il combatte et qu'il vainque ou succombe en roi!" Louis Veuillot was a virulently conservative journalist whose articles appeared regularly throughout 1870-71 in L'Univers and were published together in November 1871. The citation is taken from "Metz perdue" (1 November 1870), in Paris pendant les deux sièges, Oeuvres complètes (Paris: P. Lethielleux, 1928), 13:167. [BACK]

3. Bernard Marchand presents the Commune as above all an urban and typically Parisian movement, directed again the conservatism of the heavily religious and conservative provinces, which supported the empire and accepted the armistice with the Prussians. Paris: Histoire d 'une ville XIX e- XX e siècle (Paris: Seuil, 1993), 102-25. To a certain extent, the Commune can also be seen as ar attempt by the typically artisanal and working-class Communards to repossess the city of which they had been dispossessed by Second Empire urbanism. [BACK]

4. "Le genre humain peut-il être décapité?" Hugo, "Paris incendié," ''Mai," L'Année terrible, in Oeuvres complètes (Paris: Laffont, 1985-1990), 6:116. [BACK]

5. Hugo, "Introduction," Paris-Guide par les principaux écrivains et artistes de la France, 2 vols. (Paris: Librairie Internationale, 1867). All references to Paris-Guide will be to this edition and will be cited in the text by page number. See also the discussion of Paris-Guide in chapter 2 supra and the discussion of the Vendôme Column in chapter 6 infra. [BACK]

6. Journal d'Adèle Hugo (Paris: Minard, 1985), 3:86 (17 January 1854). Clearly Hugo's political position evolved in these years. Hugo traced his own itinerary: "1818, royaliste; 1824, royaliste libéral; 1827, libéral; 1828, libéral socialiste; 1830, libéral socialiste démocrate; 1849, libéral socialiste démocrate républicain." Guy Robert, Chaos vaincu (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1976), 1:15, cited in Paul Bénichou, Les Mages romantiques (Paris: Gallimard, 1988), 330, n. 1. See also Bénichou's superb close readings of Hugo's poetry for the evolution of Hugo's conception of poetry and the mission of the poet. [BACK]

7. Quotations are from  Hugo, Choses vues: Souvenirs, journaux, cahiers, 1849-1869, ed. Hubert Juin (Paris: Gallimard-Folio, 1972), 346. The material circumstances of Hugo's exile were never uncomfortable. He was not in any danger from the imperial government, although he had been expelled first from Brussels and then from Jersey by governments anxious not to antagonize France. Hugo traveled freely and prominently in Europe, presiding over the peace congress held at Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1869. He continued to receive his regular stipend as a member of the Académie française, and his editor eagerly published his works ( Les Misérables in 1862 was an instant international best-seller). [BACK]

8. "Je  vis dans l'exil; là je perds le caractère de l'homme pour prendre celui de l'apôtre et du prêtre." Journal d'Adèle Hugo 3:284 (13 July 1854). [BACK]

9. See Hugo's journals, published as Choses vues: Souvenirs, journaux, cahiers, 1870-1885, ed. Hubert Juin (Paris: Gallimard-Folio, 1972). The cannon request comes on 30 October 1870. Hugo, it should be noted, authorized the reading but asked that the cannon be named "Châteaudun." More generally, these volumes, which cover 1830 to 1885, are a mine for Hugo's perceptions of and reactions to public events. [BACK]

10. "Bref, cette Commune est aussi idiote que l'Assemblée est féroce. Des deux côtés, folie. Mais la France, Paris et la République s'en tireront." Hugo, Choses vues, 164 (9 April 1871). [BACK]

11. Hugo, Quatrevingt-treize (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1965), 165. All further quotations will be from this edition and will be cited in the text. [BACK]

12. Hugo, "Préface de mes oeuvres et post-scriptum de ma vie," Oeuvres completes 12:699. Cf "Avant d'ôter de l'art cette antithèse, commencez par l'ôter de la nature," William Shakespeare, pt. 2, bk. 1, iii, Oeuvres complètes 12:346. The discussion below builds on my analysis of Quatrevingt-treize in Literary France: The Making of a Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 152-56. [BACK]

13. "Il faut toujours quelqu'un qui dise: Je suis prêt. /Je m'immole. Sans quoi, ma France bien-aimée, / La conscience au coeur de l'homme se romprait;. . ." Hugo, Les Quatre Vents de l'esprit, bk. 3, 33, ii (13 September 1854), in Oeuvres complètes 6:1334. [BACK]

14. See Hugo, Oeuvres complètes 10:917-25 (22 May 1876); 1007-8 (28 February 1879); and 1017-18 (3 July 1880). As a perusal of Hugo's speeches in these years indicates, amnesty turns up often as well in less formal circumstances. [BACK]

15. Hugo, "Ce que c'est que l'exil" (1875), Oeuvres complètes 10:417. As Suzanne Nash has pointed out to me, this optimistic reading of Quatrevingttreize slights Hugo's evident attraction to the mysterious forests of Brittany and the elemental way of life that they preserve and runs counter to the scene where the three young children imprisoned in La Tourgue tear up a magnificent in-quarto that scatters to the wind ("Le Massacre de Saint-Barthélemy," bk. 3, pt. 3, 258-70). It is not clear what this particular book represents. To the extent that it too has been "imprisoned'' in the tower, and imprisoned as well in a form that impedes circulation of ideas, the in-quarto stands for the past of the book (''l'antique livre," 270), not the present and certainly not the future. In this scene, and indeed in the book as a whole, the children represent the future. It is worth noting as well that here Hugo uses the image of the azure ("le massacre se termina par un évanouissement dans l'azur," 270), precisely the terms that he will later invoke to describe the indifference of nature to man's predicament ("l'implacable sérénité de l'azur," 376). [BACK]

16. Hugo, Océan: Tas de pierres, cited in Bénichou, Les Mages romantiques, 356. [BACK]

17. Vallès's work will be cited in the text by volume and page number in Oeuvres, 2 vols., ed. Roger Bellet (Paris: Gallimard-Pléiade, 1975, 1990). Volume 1 contains L 'Argent (1857), Les Réfractaires (1865), and La Rue (1866); volume 2 contains the Jacques Vingtras trilogy: L'Enfant (1881), Le Bachelier (1884), and most important for the present discussion, L'Insurgé (1885). Both volumes contain an important selection of the journalism. Bellet's introductions and notes provide a superb introduction to a writer whose passionate and detailed involvement with history in the making undoubtedly puts off many readers. [BACK]

18. On the funeral as a rite of passage in French literary culture see my discussion in Literary France, 156-57 (Hugo) and 192-96 (Sartre). On Vallès' funeral, discussed below, see Max Gallo ,Jules Vallès, ou la révolte d'une vie (Paris: Fayard, 1988), 20-22. [BACK]

19. The careful deployment of republican emblems offered great opportunities for the constitution of an appropriate symbol system. But even these had to be modified on occasion. "La Marseillaise" was the only clear candidate for national anthem, but lyrics calling for the extermination of royal traitors and their foreign allies were not calculated to convince the crowned heads of Europe of French stability. Not until 1879 did the Third Republic proclaim "La Marseillaise" the national anthem, and then only with significant modification. The rousing marching song came to be intoned with almost liturgical solemnity. It is appropriate that the two socialist heads of state in the twentieth century, Léon Blum and François Mitterrand, speeded up "La Marseillaise." See Michel Vovelle, ''La Marseillaise: La guerre ou la paix," in Les Lieux de mémoire: La République, ed. Pierre Nora (Paris: Gallimard, 1984), 1:85-136. [BACK]

20. The Fifth Republic financed an extravaganza celebration of 1885 for Victor Hugo and relatively little for Jules Vallès. See La Gloire de Victor Hugo, Catalogue de l'Exposition des Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 1985, Ministère de la culture et Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris; and Jean-Claude Fizaine, "Aspects d'un centenaire," in Romantisme 60 (1988): 5-36. As the author of a recent, judicious history of the Commune observes, ideological debates and impassioned arguments weigh heavily on the historiography of the Commune. (Serman, La Commune de Paris, 10 ). In many respects the Commune has never been assimilated into French history.

One small indicator of the respective ranks on the prestige hierarchy of literary studies is the number of references in the annual Bibliography of the Modern Language Association. From January 1981 through March 1992 (therefore including the period of the centennial celebrations), there are 595 entries for symbol of the republic. In his speech for Bastille Day 1993 M. Aimé Montal, the mayor of Villeneuve-lez-Avignon (Gard), invoked Quatrevingt-treize in his eulogy to 1793. [BACK]

21. "C'est que j'ai gardé tout mon sang-froid, et que, pour faire trou dans ces cervelles, j'ai emmanché mon arme comme un poignard de tragédie grecque, je les ai éclaboussés de latin, j'ai grandsièclisé ma parole—ces imbéciles me laissent insulter leurs religions et leurs doctrines parce que je le fais dans un langage qui respecte leur rhétorique et que prônent les maîtres du barreau et les professeurs d'humanités. C'est entre deux périodes à la Villemain que je glisse un mot de réfractaire, cru et cruel, et je ne leur laisse pas le temps de crier." Vallès, Oeuvres 1:898. [BACK]

22 "Jules Vallès est ministre de l'Instruction Publique. Le bohème des brasseries occupe le fauteuil de Villemain. . . . Et, il faut le dire, cependant . . .c'est l'homme qui a le plus de talent et le moins de méchanceté. Mais la France est classique, de telle sorte que les théories littéraires de cet homme de lettres font déjà plus de mal au nouveau pouvoir que les théories sociales de ses confrères. Un gouvernement dont un membre a osé écrire qu' Homère était à mettre au rancart et que Le Misanthrope de Molière manquait de gaieté, apparaît au bourgeois plus épouvantant ( sic ) plus subversif, plus antisocial, que si ce même gouvernement décrétait le même jour l'abolition de l'hérédité et le remplacement du mariage par l 'union libre." Edmond et Jules de Goncourt, Journal—Mémoires de la vie littéraire (Monoco: Éditions de l'Imprimerie Nationale / Fasquelle &  Flammarion, 1956), 9:192 (31 March 1871). With characteristic exaggeration, Goncourt promotes Vallès to minister of public instruction. See Paul Lidsky, Les Écrivains contre la Commune (Paris: Maspero, 1970) for some truly astonishing denunciations of the Communards. [BACK]

23. Similarly, Meursault in Camus's L'Étranger is astounded at how small and how unimpressive the guillotine is. He too credits all the dramatic stories of the French Revolution for the false impression. Meursault too is a victim of the book, and Camus, like Vallès, insists upon the ordinariness of the guillotine. In English literature of course Dickens's Tale of Two Cities fixed the image of the scaffold forever after for generations of readers. [BACK]

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