DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — France Will Live Again

Facebook friends know I buy, read and mostly keep a lot of used books. Call it an obsession.

My most recent acquisition is titled “France Will Live Again: The Portrait of a Peaceful Interlude 1919-1939,” by Samuel Chamberlain. It was priced at $3 new in December 1940, a bit less the other day for the frail used copy.

For the modern reader, the book is an interesting leap back in time.

Like Ernest Hemingway, Chamberlain served in the Red Cross ambulance corps during World War I.

He decided to remain in France, devoting himself to photographing and drawing French villages, towns and cities, cathedrals and churches, the seashore, bridges, cottages, farms, manors and chateaux.

Eventually, he decided that much of this would be destroyed in the coming war, and therefore documented it in his book. Much of it was.

Some of the sites I’ve seen while visiting France, especially during my and Dorette’s three-month retirement sabbatical on the Riviera in 2010.

We rented an apartment a few miles east of Nice in the town of Menton and used it as home base for our travels. Thus my favorite Chamberlain drawing is the one of Menton, shown above.

At the right, is a photo I took in Menton. Notice that the church steeple is the same, although much of the town has changed during the 70 years since publication of the Chamberlain book.

Menton remains on my list of places to see again.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Bois du Boulogne

I shot this photo in Monday of a professional dog walker in the Bois du Boulogne, the large park on the edge of Paris, which figures in Marcel Proust’s novel, “A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu.”

Over my lifetime, I’ve read this work more than once in English translation (all 3,031 pages in seven volumes), and some of it in the original language, thanks to the basic French I learned via a staff tuition waiver program at the University of North Dakota.

Is Proust, who died in 1922, still relevant?

I think so. His novel continues to sell worldwide, and I purchased two new biographies before we departed from France on Wednesday.

On past visits to the Bois, I’ve made a point of walking around its lakes and on the broad promenades such as the former L’allée des Acacias, now mostly roads crowded with automobiles.

Even so, Dorette, her granddaughter, Avery, and I enjoyed our time there, although the experience troubled me somewhat. The place seemed “different.”

Then I recalled that Proust’s fictional narrator, now an elderly man like me, remembering his youth, had felt a similar disenchantment.

The novel is set in the Belle Epoch when the Bois was the place where on Sundays strolled the most beautiful women of Paris, including one of Proust’s most famous characters, Odette Swann.

The narrator, after reminiscing about long-ago days, describes what he now sees:

“Nature was resuming its reign over the Bois, from which had vanished all trace of the idea that it was the Elysian Garden of Women; above the gimcrack windmill the real sky was grey; the wind wrinkled the surface of the Grand Lac in little wavelets, like a real lake; large birds flew swiftly over the Bois, as over a real wood, and with shrill cries perched one after another on the great oaks which, beneath their Druidical crown, and with Dodonian majesty, seemed to proclaim the inhuman emptiness of this deconsecrated forest, and helped me to understand how paradoxical it is to seek in reality for the pictures that are stored in one’s memory, which must inevitably lose the charm that comes to them from memory itself.”

A good lesson for someone my age. In fact, I intend to go to the Bois to have it repeated next year when I’m in Paris again, hopefully, for the Hemingway Society’s biennial conference.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Garland Crook On D-Day

Somewhere on the coast of the English Channel, 73 years ago today, was my father, Garland Crook, a 19-year-old from the piney hills of Mississippi.

He joined the U.S. Army at 17, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbor. His mother had to sign a document to allow him to join up at so young an age. Eventually, he was sent to England, and on the night of June 5, 1944, was boarding a ship as a soldier in the largest coastal invasion in history, Operation Overlord. He was one of those you see in the films, on Omaha Beach the next day, June 6. He survived.

This photo was taken later in France, made into a postcard and sent to his Ma and Papa Crook (Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Asberry Crook, known to all in Attalla County (Miss.) and environs as Miss Sally and Mr. “Berry”). I have that postcard and the back of the postcard reads: “To Ma + Papa, Love Garland, Somewhere in France, 160 pounds.” This was, of course, all that he could tell them. He was the eldest of nine children, and my aunts and uncles have told me they remember when that postcard arrived at their home in Mississippi, likely the first word they had that he was alive.

About a month after he survived Omaha Beach, he and a buddy were in a convoy of supply trucks, and knowing that a passing German plane had spotted them, they ran for cover before the German plane dropped a bomb. But they didn’t get very far. More or less, no trace of his buddy could be found.

Daddy recovered and was then assigned to drive the car of General John C. H. Lee (lieutenant general in charge of Theater Service Forces, European Theater), and thus Daddy was witness to much more history from that day until the German surrender.

With the general, he had Christmas dinner with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor somewhere in France. And with the general, he attended the funeral of Gen.  George Patton, who died in Germany in a car accident.

Then, World War II was over, and he went home to Mississippi, returning to the Army shortly thereafter for a career, which included service in Korea — twice, once for the conflict and once in the late 1960s — and Okinawa during the Vietnam War — where he was allowed to bring his young family for a great adventure.

We occasionally talked about going back to France with him, but careers, houses, children and well, just life, you know, got in the way. We never have stopped honoring him, and when attending parades and the like, we always stand up when the color guard comes by, saddened by those around us who cannot be bothered to do so or have not been taught. I am old enough that I remember honoring the veterans of World War I in the color guard, the “war to end all wars.”

During the 50th anniversary events of D-Day, much as so many of that generation did, my father finally started to tell me these stories, as I, the history geek, began to find time to read books like “D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II” by Stephen Ambrose. So it was that Daddy’s oral history of this time is in my files.

He lives in my town and we are blessed to have had him so very long in our lives.

This is my homage — to all who were there that day, to all who were home doing everything they could to support them, to my Mom and her North Dakota Victory garden, to rationing, to doing completely without and to all the lost souls of the wars.

This is for the generations after, so they know these stories. If you are interested in learning more about D-Day, this is an excellent website by the U.S. Army.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — France Countryside, Summer 2015, Part 10

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Versailles and the Palace de Versailles were on the agenda for Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson on his last full day in France.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — France Countryside, Summer 2015, Part 7

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The Tuesday market in Le Bugue — that’s where Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson, his wife, Joanne Plager Burke Olson, and their other traveling companions spent their morning. Le Bugue, located on the banks of the Vézère River a few kilometers before the confluence of the Vézère with the Dordogne at Limeuil, is a commune in the Dordogne department in southwestern France. The Tuesday market was established 6½ centuries ago in 1319 by the king of France, Philippe Le Long.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — France Countryside, Summer 2015, Part 6

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Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson captured these scenes in Salers, a commune in the Cantal department in south-central France, on his recent trip.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — France Countryside, Summer 2015, Part 5

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Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson and his traveling companions, including his wife, Joanne Barclay Burke Plager, and Dean Plager and Barclay Jackson, has an “incredible day and tea in Salers, a commune in the Cantal department in south-central France. It is famous for the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée cheeses Cantal and Salers. It is also famous for the Salers breed of cattle that originated in this commune.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — France Countryside, Summer 2015, Part 4

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On his recent European trip to France, Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson ended his boat travel in Mâcon, a small city in east-central France in the department of Saône-et-Loire, located in Burgundy. From there, he and his group headed west by automobile to Massif Central, an elevated region in south-central France, consisting of mountains and plateau with numerous castles and parks. Their destination, La Bourboule, a commune in the Puy-de-Dôme department in Auvergne  — and a carnival.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — France Countryside, Summer 2015, Part 3

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The recent travels of Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson and his wife, Joanne Plager Burke Olson, took them to the commune of Port-de-Vaux in Ain department in eastern France, where hungry swans and ducks were their marina neighbors.

JEFF OLSON: Photo Gallery — France Countryside, Summer 2015, Part 2

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Alexandria, Va., photographer Jeff Olson’s travels in France on Sunday and Monday took him through 14 locks from Saint-Leger-sur-Dheune to Chegny and then to Fragnes, all located in in the Saône-et-Loire department in the region of Bourgogne.