The British Prime Minister was on the news again, addressing the nation about the situation (presumably in an attempt to divert attention from his own double-dealing and corruption).
It is twenty-one months since the situation began. Sitting in school with no more than a handful of students, there seemed an air of unreality. The sun was shining, the spring had come, everything was in bloom, what shadow could there be?
At the time, I remember looking for Jean Paul Sartre’s novel Iron in the Soul. A piece of existentialist fiction, it is set against the background of the defeat of France and people waiting on fine June days for the arrival of the invader.
On Sunday, 16th June 1940, Mathieu, one of the characters in the novel, ponders his situation:
That’s just about it, thought Mathieu: a fair bugger. He gazed into nothingness, and thought: I’m a Frenchman… and that’s a bugger, he reflected for the first time in his life; a fair bugger: we’ve never really seen France: we’ve only been in it. France had been the air we breathed, the lure of the earth, having plenty of elbow room, seeing the kind of things we do, feeling so certain that the world was made for man. It has always been so natural to be French, the simplest, more economical, way in the world, to feel that one is universal. One didn’t have to explain things; it was for the others, the Germans, the English, the Belgians, to explain by what piece of ill-luck, by what fault, it had come about that they were none of them quite human. And now France is lying on her back, and we can take a good look at her, can see her like a piece of large, broken-down machinery. And we think — so that, all the time, is what it was! — an accident of locality, an accident of history. We are still French, but it no longer seems natural. It needed no more than an accident to make us realize that we were merely accidental. Schwartz thinks that he is accidental — and no longer understands himself, finds himself embarrassing. He thinks — “How comes it that one is French?”; he thinks, “With a bit of luck I might have been born a German.” And then his face takes on a hard look, and he sits listening to the approach of his adoptive country. He sits waiting for the coming of the glittering armies that shall gleefully celebrate his change of heart; he sits waiting for the moment when he will be able to trade our defeat for their victory, when it will seem natural to him to be victorious and German.
In Mathieu’s situation, there were winners and losers, now there are only losers.
The enemy in 1940 arrived and remained for four years. How long will the current enemy remain?