One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Chateaubriand: The Execution of His Cousin


On the day of execution, I wanted to accompany my comrade onto his last field of battle; I could find not a single carriage, and hurried on foot to the Grenelle Plain. I arrived, drenched in sweat, a moment too late: Armand had been shot against the outer wall of Paris. His skull was shattered; a butcher’s dog was licking his blood and brains. I followed the cart which carried the bodies of Armand and his two companions, plebeian and noble, Quintal and Goyon, to the Vaugirard cemetery where I had buried Monsieur de Laharpe. I saw my cousin for the last time, without being able to recognise him: the bullets had disfigured him, he had no face left; I could not see the ravages of time there, nor even see death there within that shapeless, bleeding orb; he remained youthful in my mind as at the time of Libba and Thionville. He was shot on Good Friday: the Crucified One appears to me at the end of all my ills. When I walk along the ramparts of the Grenelle Plain, I stop to look at the bullet marks, still visible on the wall. If Bonaparte’s lead had left no other traces, he would no longer be spoken of.

A strange linkage of destinies! General Hulin, the Military Commandant of Paris, named the commission which blew out Armand’s brains; he had been, in the past, named as President of the commission which shattered the Duc d’Enghien’s skull. After that first misfortune, ought he not to have abstained completely from councils of war? And I, I spoke of the death of the Great Condé’s descendant without mentioning General Hulin’s part in the execution of an unknown soldier, my relative. For judging the judges of that tribunal at Vincennes, I have doubtless, in turn, received my commission from Heaven.

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