The Merry Month of May

The Merry Month of May by James Jones Page B

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Authors: James Jones
Tags: Fiction, Literary, Art, Typography
    “I’ll try and keep you informed of what takes place. But if what I suspect is going to happen happens, after tomorrow, I may not be around to see you for some days. In any case, don’t worry about me. I doubt very much if I’ll see much more action on the barricades.
    “You see, what this group I’m with—the whole group, not just our sub-committee—is trying to do is arrange in some way to have a true film record of what’s going to happen between us and the forces of order.” He italicized that last phrase, in a deadly way. “We’re in the process of forming a Cinema Committee of the May Revolution. All of us are Cinema majors, you see: the future directors, producers, screenwriters of the New France. If it works out, as it appears it will, I’ll probably be spending most of my time behind a desk organizing the shooting of what transpires in the next few weeks—so our side can present its picture to the world, to contrast with the Government’s propaganda films. You can tell my father that.”
    Then he added, “If you want to.”
    I nodded and we shook hands, hard and tightly: for all the world like two combat men being sent off on different missions from which we didn’t really expect to return. It was silly. And yet I couldn’t help it.
    After he had gone, I went again to my window, and watched him swinging off down the quai toward Cité, in his young Revolutionary’s “uniform”. It was then I noticed, after leaning out a little and looking up the other way, that for the first time the two dark-blue camions of police had been stationed on the Island side of the Pont de la Tournelle beneath the Tour d’Argent, in position to block off the Quai de Bethune where, as every inhabitant of Paris knew, M. Pompidou the Prime Minister lived.
    It was the first time the dark, sinister-looking little vans had appeared there, but they were to become familiar.

    I T WAS SOME TIME during that week of May 6th to May the 12th that some of us Americans established a pattern of meeting at the Gallaghers’.
    Every evening around seven, a group of Parisian Americans would congregate at Harry’s apartment. It was like a sort of late cocktail hour. We would discuss the day’s events, stay to watch the eight o’clock news on TV, drink a good deal, and speculate on what might happen tomorrow. Then we would move on to our dinner dates, or whatever we had lined up for the evening.
    As the rioting got worse night after night, the Government-controlled French TV showed less and less about it. Finally it was hardly worth turning the TV on. The Government had decided it was going to play the whole thing down to the French people. Apparently, it hoped the problem would just up and disappear. We got news about the forthcoming Vietnam Peace Talks and Ambassador Harriman, and about how many the Americans were killing out in Vietnam.
    Hill Gallagher, of course, had not been seen by any of us since the Sunday night when he had stopped by my place alone.
    There were student riots every night now. In the French press they were already calling the students, more or less as a compliment, les enragés: the enraged ones. Hill’s manif (I always thought of it as that, somehow: as if he had personally arranged it all), Hill’s manif on the May 6th Monday, although not allowed by the police, was a howling success as a call to arms. On the Tuesday of the 7th some 15,000 students paraded all around Paris in a 12-mile march, and the police let them. On the Wednesday the Government offered to reopen the Sorbonne: the students immediately threatened to “occupy” it. So the Sorbonne stayed closed.
    Nobody thought that soon France would be literally paralyzed, in the throes of one of its worst social upheavals in this century. Yet somehow our pattern of clustering together established itself anyhow. Everyone was excited and there was a vacation feeling in the air. More than anything, it reminded me of the first weeks of World War II

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