King Xerxes grieves that all his men will be dead in a hundred years
Von Eichendorff: In a foreign country

The Michauds say goodbye to their home

BombardementTours1940The city of Tours, France, summer 1940. Paris was not to suffer much physically from the war, but the civilians who fled could not know that. Many refugees from Paris unluckily found themselves in Tours when the Germans bombed it

[June 1940. The Michauds are a middle-aged couple who like tens of thousands of other Parisians are about to flee Paris on foot as the city is attacked by the Nazis.]

The Michauds had gotten up at five o'clock in the morning to have time to clean the apartment thoroughly before they left. Of course it was strange to take so much care over worthless things that would almost certainly vanish as soon as the first bombs fell on Paris. But, thought Mme Michaud, we do dress the dead who are going to rot in the ground, and make them look good. It's a last homage, an ultimate proof of love for what was dear to us. And this apartment was very dear to them. They had been living there for sixteen years. They could not take all their memories and keepsakes with them. Try as they might, the best would stay here within these poor walls.

Irène Némirovsky (1903-1942), Suite française. This is my own translation but there is an excellent English translation by Sandra Smith 

Les Michaud s'étaient levés à cinq heures du matin pour avoir le temps de faire l'appartement à fond avant de le quitter. Il était évidemment étrange de prendre tant de soin de choses sans valeur et condamnées, selon toutes probabilités, à disparaître dès que les premières bombes tomberaient sur Paris. Mais, pensait Mme Michaud, on habille et on pare bien les morts qui sont destinés à pourrir dans la terre. C'est un dernier hommage, une preuve suprême d'amour à ce qui fut cher. Or ce petit appartement leur était bien cher. Ils y vivaient depuis seize ans. Ils ne pourraient pas emmener avec eux tous leurs souvenirs. Ils auraient beau faire, les meilleurs resteraient ici, entre ces pauvres mur.

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