Saturday, June 17, 2017

Je suis Française

Je suis Française, my grandmother said to me. 

Overlooking Graffigny, France

Do you know the village of Graffigny?


That is no surprise unless you knew of a friend of Voltaire, a certain lady with the name Françoise de Graffigny.

She kept a copy of her correspondence with her friend and others such as Rousseau and Montesquieu and so, for those who care, a window into the daily life of 18th century France. Oh, yes, she was a celebrity in her own right, having written a novel Lettres d’une Péruvienne (1747) and a play Cénie (1750), which accorded her a fleeting fame now forgotten. A name and nothing more is her connection with Graffigny. And that name was by way of a marriage that was disastrous. So, she divorced herself from the miserable fellow, keeping only the name.

Would I have known of Graffigny?


No more than you, had not my grandmother chanced it seemed to have come from this unknown town.

And stranger still, I have to thank a 19-year-old Serbian nationalist, a Gavrilo Princip, who shot the Arch Duke Ferdinand, and so set in motion the dominoes that led to World War I. Or do I thank Kapitanleutnant Walther von Schwieger who sank the Lusitania, and by his act got us into war? And thus, my grandfather into uniform and into France and in a battle of St. Mihiel to be wounded and taken to the village of Graffigny, to be nursed back to health by a French miss s’appelle Marguerite Chevallier.

So, the two families of Chevallier and Pierresonne were united, and as my grandmother said, Je suis Français.

The world is unpredictable. We are ruled by chance and coincidence. Thank God, we have the choice to decide the little things.

More to come...