Wednesday, August 25, 2010

`The Rest of Us Will Forget Too Soon'

A reader in Dallas reminds us:

"August 25, 1944 - A.J. Liebling arrives in Paris, several hours before the surrender of the German garrison."

Liebling concludes his “Letter from Paris,” published in The New Yorker on Sept. 30, 1944, like this:

“The exuberance of the first week of liberation has died down. The children in the little park under my window who sang the `Marseillaise’ all day every day that week and walked about waving tiny flags are now playing the French equivalent of hopscotch, as they used to in 1940, when I lived in the same room I live in now, overlooking the same park. The small gardien in the green uniform who stood by the fountain in the park on the day I went away is there again, his hands locked behind his back. The fountain, with its four allegorical female figures (the rivers of France), plays on and I am once again tempted to throw peachstones into the navel of the fat stone woman who represents the Loire. A fat flesh-and-blood woman in flowered wrapper comes out on a sixth-story balcony of a house fronting on the park and waters some geraniums. I recognize her; she is the woman who came out on the same balcony early in the morning of May 10, 1940, when German planes first appeared over Paris, and waved at some frightened pigeons and cried, `Confidence!’ And I remember how people at other windows on the square laughed and waved, too. She was wearing a flannel nightgown then. The children have forgotten the Germans already, I am sure. The rest of us will forget too soon.”

[from Liebling’s World War II Writings, Library of America, 2008.]

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