And again et encore…Resist!


Last November I wrote a blog called ‘Resist’. This was in reaction to the Paris attacks of November 13th 2015, events that left France, and the world, reeling after the single deadliest terrorist attack in French history with 130 dead and 352 wounded.  More than 1 700 people have now been officially recognised as victims of what happened on that dreadful day.

One year later, the events of 2016 have shown that resistance is more necessary than ever.

22 March:  in neighbouring Belgium, Islamic jihadists attacked the airport and the metro in Brussels. 32 killed, 300 injured.

13 June, Magnanville: a police chief and his wife were butchered by Larossi Abballa. The couple’s 3-year-old son was forced to watch his mother die as the event was recorded on Facebook Live, with the murderer claiming allegiance to ISIL and promising to kill infidels at their homes. ‘I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with the boy yet,’ he said.

July 14th Nice: in the middle of the 14th July celebrations Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlelan drove a truck into a crowd of revellers. 86 killed, 434 injured. Islamic state claimed responsibility.

26 July St Etienne du Rouvray: two Islamic state ‘soldiers’ entered a church in a small Normandy village, took hostages, forced the priest to his knees and cut his throat.

Timeline on

Last week in a survey carried out by the Red Cross, 55% of people in France said that they feared ‘finding themselves in a situation which posed a dangerous risk’ as against 38% in 2010. 70% of those polled cited the events of 2015/2016 as an influential factor.

Tonight, Saturday 12 November, the Bataclan reopens for its first concert since last year’s tragedy. Sting gives a concert to “remember and honour those who lost their lives…” and to “celebrate the life and the music this historic theatre represents.”

I would like to echo his words, remembering and honouring not just those who lost their lives in November 2015 but also the victims  of  2016 and adding to the musical tribute the magnificent lines of  Resistance poet Paul Valery, quoted in my blog of November 2015, below.


In July I wrote a blog about Paris. It began:

“Just back from two weeks in Paris, the most beautiful and evocative city on earth…City of Light, City of Love… the Seine and its bridges.”

I then went on to talk about a poem:

“…the melancholic poem about love and time by Guillaume Apollinaire that every student of the French Baccalauréat knows by heart, ‘Le Pont Mirabeau’.

On November 13 in Paris a gang of murdering cowards hiding behind Kalashnikovs turned their weapons on families and children enjoying an evening at the restaurant, on football fans enjoying a friendly game, on excited music fans enjoying a rock concert. Their aim was to turn the City of Light into the City of Darkness, the City of Love into the City of Hate and Fear.

It’s doubtful that these brutal, ignorant murderers had ever read Apollinaire’s poem, or indeed any other work of literature. They had surely never thrilled to the verses of Shakespeare, wept at the poetry of Homer; never shared the sufferings of Jean Valjean or Edmond Dantès.

And others like them, lashed to the ideology of terrorism and tyranny, will never, ever, understand why Allied planes, flying over occupied France in World War 2, dropped not just weapons to the maquis: fluttering down from the sky came thousands of copies of a poem, which would continue to inspire and uplift those men and women risking their lives in the fight against Nazi tyranny.

Its title was ‘Liberté, j’écris ton nom’ , Freedom, I write your name.

Written by poet and Resistance member Paul Eluard in 1942, its celebratory stanzas end with the following lines:

Et par le pouvoir d’un mot

Je recommence ma vie

Je suis né pour te connaître

Pour te nommer:


And through the power of one word

I begin my life again

I was born to know you

To name you:


This weekend the Eiffel Tower was cloaked in darkness as the world mourned the victims of November 13th. But the darkness was temporary.

Last night the lights came on again as the Lady put on the colours of the tricolor demonstrating once again the regenerative power of one word:


In memory of the victims of the terrorist attack of November 13th, 2015.

A complete version of Eluard’s poem can be read at:

Paul Eluard Poésie
Paul Eluard Poésie

Hate Story. Brussels 22 March 2016

Tintin weeps for Brussels. Image courtesy of Sylvain Gran'maison
Tintin weeps for Brussels. Image courtesy of Sylvain Grand’Maison

Last month’s blog, ‘Love Story’,  related the story of a dog and how she was rescued by compassionate friends. Pace all sceptics of anthropomorphism, I am sure she understands what happened to her and now returns the same affection to those who transformed her life.

Last week, a little over a month after posting ‘Love Story’, live images from Brussels began to appear on our TV sets. At first it was hard to believe that what we were seeing was real; then came the realization that the scenes of suffering on the screen were not due to some terrible accident, but the result of acts of gratuitous hatred and cruelty. They were a flashback to what we had also seen, and at first been unable to believe, in November 2015 in Paris. As news came in of the explosions at the airport and metro, dazed survivors stumbled on screen, repeating the same words: ‘scènes d’horreur’, ‘l’enfer’, ‘le chaos’ ‘un cauchemare’. Scenes of horror, Hell, chaos and nightmare. Stunned passengers picked their way through dark tunnels, children sobbed and screamed, a paramedic stood, immobile, head in hands.

When it became impossible to watch I turned for answers to the words of one of France’s greatest writers.

The chateau de Montaigne in the Périgord region of France became home to the Montaigne family in 1477. Today, visitors can still see the tower which housed the library of the great Renaissance humanist, Michel De Montaigne and in which he worked, surrounded by paintings and books:

“I look out on my garden and farmyard, my courtyard and most of the house. I leaf through one book, then another, in no particular order and with no specific aim, sometimes I dream, sometimes I take notes and, wandering about, I dictate my reveries which are here set down for you.’

Montaigne (1533-1592) led a high-profile public life. He was a magistrate, served as the mayor of Bordeaux, played an active part in negotiations during the devastating wars of religion during which he lived, and travelled extensively in Europe. But the world remembers him as the author of the famous ‘Essais’, written over the last twenty years of his life, and which would impress generations to come by their profound insights into the human condition.

In attempting to understand who we are, Montaigne first applied his astonishing erudition by examining different topics from the standpoint of previous writers and philosophers. He then added to the mix his own personal experiences, giving the essays their unique and fascinating flavour: ‘Others form man, I only report him’, ‘I myself am the subject of my book’, and, he adds, had circumstances been otherwise, he would willingly have painted himself ‘in the fullest nudity.’*

Inspired by those who came before him and an inspiration to those who followed, Montaigne’s contemplative, meandering prose, studded with examples from daily life like the illuminations in a book of hours, is a true pleasure to read. It is also full of compassion and tolerance, and, like the works of Shakespeare, writing just after him, astonishingly modern in its relevance. He moves with ease from lofty, abstract subjects such as death, solitude, education and friendship, to the engagingly down-to-earth, discoursing on drunkenness or the intractability of the male organ, rising when it shouldn’t and refusing to rise when it should: (Car je vous donne à penser , s’il y a une seule des parties de notre corps qui ne refuse à notre volonté souvent son opération et qui souvent ne l’exerce contre notre volonté.’(Book I Ch 21)

Of particular relevance to the events of last Tuesday are his reflections on the subject of cruelty (Book II). For Montaigne, cruelty is the worst of all vices. ‘Je hay entre autres vices, cruellement, la cruauté…’ And not just cruelty between human beings, but also cruelty to animals. He cannot bear to see ‘a chicken have its throat cut’ nor hear the whimpers of ‘a hare in my dog’s teeth’. In the following chapter ‘An Apology for Raymond Sebond’ he returns to the subject of animals again, starting by attacking man’s arrogant presumptuousness, his ‘natural and original illness’. In our ‘divine’ presumption, he writes, we consider ourselves superior to animals who are ‘our fellows and companions’. Yet it is often such ‘morally superior’ beings who show themselves to be capable of terrible cruelty. Citing the example of the Romans who, starting with spectacles showing the slaughter of animals then progressed to the slaughter of men, he expresses the fear that nature has ‘attached’ to man some ‘instinct toward inhumanity’. No one, he says, takes pleasure in watching animals play together while everyone enjoys seeing them “s’entredéchirer et desmembrer“, dismember and tear each other to pieces.

Many people remarked on this aspect of the Paris attacks, where the terrorists specifically targeted people who were out to enjoy themselves-an evening with friends, a football match, a concert-people who were there to ‘s’entrejouer’ and who finished by being torn to pieces and dismembered.

One hundred and thirty people died in those attacks. This weekend the world has been remembering the latest victims of man’s ‘instinct toward inhumanity’, the 35 dead and 340 injured, their grieving families and friends, all those who suffered and died at the hands of other, ‘morally superior’, beings: the cruel authors of ‘Hate Story’, written in Brussels.

‘I have the tenderest compassion for others’ afflictions…Nothing tempts my tears but tears.’ Michel de Montaigne

A special thanks to Sylvain Grand’Maison for permission to use his striking illustration:

*Montaigne’s writing is accessible on the internet from a multitude of sources, varying according to the different editions/translations of his works. I’ve used the following sources to check the accuracy (or not) of French and English versions, with most of the latter being freely (and possibly incorrectly) translated by myself.,+Michel+de

This excellent free site offers several versions of Montaigne’s works in French and English.

Offers editions of various authors for a small fee.

Visit this lovely site to read more about Montaigne’s tower and see some beautiful photos.