It is an understatement to say that Louise Michel (1830-1905) had an eventful and exemplary life. Her lively commitment during the Paris Commune led her to be deported to New Caledonia in 1872. She remained there until the general amnesty decreed in 1880. It is this period which is outlined in the account published in La Popular life barely two weeks after his death on January 9, 1905, from pneumonia. ” Weekly journal of novels “, La Vie populaire offered free of charge the first number of the long series to be followed every Friday.
Between stories, poems, memoirs, conferences, articles, etc., Louise Michel had an easy pen. Nevertheless, doubts hover over the author or authors of the post-mortem series. Running out of money, Louise Michel corresponded, for example, with a certain Arnould Galopin, author of episodic adventure novels such as the Belle Époque produced. Certainly, we find indisputable historical facts there, but they occasionally rub shoulders with stories probably inspired by the various facts of the time. Be that as it may, the quality of this romantic work undoubtedly counted in its time to strengthen the aura of Louise Michel, a legendary woman already in her lifetime.
Presented by the publisher of 1905 as ” the lived diary of a loving woman “, these memories consist of three parts: “The Red Days of the Commune ”,“ The Black Days of Exile ”,“ The Sad Anarchist Exodus ”. A warning warns readers: ” Those who read these moving pages will be able to convince themselves that the goal of the Great Outlaw’s whole life was only to decrease hatred between men, and that she never dreamed of anything else. thing that great concord and universal brotherhood. “
The story begins with the entrance of Versailles in Paris on 21 May 1871. A massacre. Thirty thousand dead according to Lissagaray. It’s Bloody Week. A litany of rigged and hasty trials follows. We imprison the innocent, we separate mothers and children, we even shoot the blind. For her judges, Louise Michel is a “wolf eager for blood ”. ” If you’re not cowards, kill me!” She shouted at them. The War Council condemned her to deportation. A terrible prison journey began. Satory, Versailles, Arras, Versailles again, Auberive, La Rochelle… The registration number 2182 tells that the well-dressed bourgeois Versailles came to visit the prisoners as one goes to the zoo. Dirty and hungry, the Communards clustered on soiled heaps of straw were seen as wild animals.
It’s aboard La Virginiethat Louise Michel arrived in New Caledonia after five months of travel. The oiler had not finished rubbing shoulders with the arbitrariness of the wardens. For her happiness, in addition to reuniting with former companions, she had to meet the Kanak people, these ” negroes of Oceania ” according to the vocabulary of the time. Faced with the ferocity of the prison administration, Louise’s choice was simple. To the wardens described as civilized men, she obviously preferred to take affection for the Canaques presented as savages.
Louise wanted to put her character as a teacher at the service of her new friends. The authorities took a very dim view of the friendship that was growing between this quasi-witch and a bunch of anthropophagi. Rough warriors who sometimes protected her from supervisors by making her a guard of honor. The lessons were therefore held out of sight under the trees, in the caves. In Noumea, the Canaques preferred to defy the ban, and therefore suffer the whip, rather than miss the class. The combatant was criticized for putting ridiculous ideas of emancipation in the heads of the natives.
The narrative written in the first person is teeming with poignant events (the attempts at fine abortions, the tortures inflicted on the Communards, the revolt of the Canaques repressed in blood, betrayals, tussles with the administration, the escape of ‘Henri Rochefort, colonial exploitation, the black market, capital executions…), of fights to defend all the castaways of life (humans, but also dogs, cats, albatrosses, pigeons…), funny anecdotes. Combine that with the universe that we saw in Solveig Anspach’s film dedicated to Louise Michel and we obtain an exotic and lyrical action novel of beautiful craftsmanship. The passages which relate the links which united Louise to her mother, whom she loved dearly, are not the least endearing.
Tears, rage or pain, the good Louise must have poured liters on the cruelty of men. She also probably poured it out, paradoxically, when she left New Caledonia. Torn between the sadness of leaving loved ones and the joy of reuniting with old ones. This is what the soap opera suggests. These true false memories which would have been written during the lecture tour that the rebel gave in Algeria are to be read as we commemorate the anniversary of the Paris Commune (March 18-May 28, 1871). The book fascinated high school students in Limousin who awarded it a prize. Well done. Better to have Louise the rebellious as a heroine rather than this or that starlet with two balls.
Long live the Municipality! “