Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ding, Dong, the Witch is .... No, Let's Rethink That

I've  long thought that Jean-Paul Sartre, though a mediocre philosopher, was a pretty good playwright and novelist.

Hold with novelist.  His trilogy Les chemins de la liberté, offers a marvellous window into France/Paris in and around the debacle that was the collapse of France in the face of the German invasion at the beginning of World War II.  The second volume, Le Sursis, when I first read it struck me as the most memorable.  The standard English translation of "Le Sursis" is "The Reprieve," but as Wiki says, the phrase "could cover a number of semantic fields from 'deferment' to 'amnesty.'"   The background for the novel is the calamitous Munich encounter of 1938, when Neville Chamberlain went to Germany to negotiate with Adolph Hitler, only to return empty-handed (well--with an empty promise) and humiliated.

Or so we remember it from the hindsight of history.  We remember how the Munich agreement led with the force and implacability of  classical tragedy to the fall of Czechoslovakia and thence to World War II.  But Sartre reminds us of what we have forgotten: to the crowds in the street in 1938, Munich looks like a fabulous victory.  Sartre captures the sense of almost paralyzing anxiety that descended upon Paris at the beginning of the great danse macabre--followed by the eruption of giddy relief at its end.  "Peace in our time," Chamberlain famously declared, and in the immediate aftermath of Munich, the phrase had  not yet achieved its bitter irony.

I see that we have a deal over the budget "CR" and the debt limit (though not, apparently, over the menacing "sequestration" which appears almost to have become part of the furniture).   The sigh of relief in the chattering class sounds like the greatest exhalation of warm air since Hurricane Sandy.  The marital rata-tat-tat is the sound of mutual Congressional backslapping.  The worst is over; we can get back to immigration (well probably not), tax overhaul (you jest) an all those other topics that have been plaguing us for so long.  The President retains his golden slippers and Ted ("Don't Throw the Water!") Cruz flies off on his broom.

Hey, this has been fun. And I see that the new CR expires on January 15 (and the suspension of the debt ceiling, on February 7).  So it looks like we have a chance to enjoy it all again.


marcel said...

The standard English translation of "Le Sursis" but as Wiki says, the phrase
could cover a number of semantic fields from 'deferment' to 'amnesty'.

What? Looks like you dropped at least a couple of words between "Sursis" & "but"

Buce said...

I'm on it, thanks.