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“The bloody news reminds us that peace is not the natural state of things”

Grandstand. There are symbols that cannot be ignored. Three days before the invasion of Ukraine by the Putin army, my grandfather passed away, aged 99. Registration number 39986 from the Flossenbürg camp, he repeated all his life that he had been deported as a member of the resistance, no ” only “ as a Jew. He had chosen to fight for an ideal; against an infernal ideology.

In my first novel, Camphor Synthesis (Gallimard, 2010), written at the age of his deportation, it seemed obvious to me to recount his war, and above all how he had miraculously found, in the early 2000s, the GI who had taken him into his arms one morning in April 1945. In the last chapter, I quoted the speech of Claude Simon receiving his Nobel: “I am now an old man, and like many inhabitants of our old Europe, the first part of my life was quite eventful. I witnessed a revolution, I waged war in particularly deadly conditions (…)I was taken prisoner, I experienced hunger, physical labor until exhaustion, I escaped, I was seriously ill, several times on the verge of death, (…) and yet, I have never yet, at 72, discovered any meaning in all this, except, as I believe has been said, [Roland] Barthes after Shakespeare, that “if the world means anything, it means nothing” – except that it is. »

Still: the world might not mean anything, but when I wrote the last word of my book, I was convinced that my generation – European – would be the first to no longer see war as a genuine peril.

Because the Second World War had been only the ultimate occurrence of a series of inevitably repetitive conflicts. Until then, not six months had passed without two countries of our continent intending to invade or exterminate each other. Beyond the Franco-German conflict of 1870 or the butchery of the Great War, think of the Thirty Years’ War, which started in 1618, which tore Europe apart, the Anglo-Spanish War of 1727, the three wars of Silesia, the Seven Years’ War (which pitted France and Austria against Great Britain and Prussia from 1756), the Swedish-Norwegian War of 1814, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Polish-Lithuanian war of 1920… Not to mention the so-called “Coalition” wars, of which Napoleon made his honey and then the costs, which installed the idea of ​​massive conscription, and more technological conflicts where artillery would become queen.

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