Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘(Voyage au bout de la nuit)

He doesn’t know it: Sargent Alcide communes with angels…

This flat canoe lands me in Tobo, a town of 3 large thatched huts (in current State of Togo, Africa, a former French colony). The landing stage (embarcadero) was constructed with bamboo.  The molluscs ate the bamboo every month and the landing was to be rebuilt…

You have the fat Lieutenant Grappa, Sargent Alcide and a dozen hired aboregenous militias from the environs.

Sargent Alcide’s voice of “Garde a vous” can be heard miles away, while the bare-feet militias arrange sacs of dirt and engage in assault maneuvers trying to steal the enemy flag…

Sargent Alcide has established a side trade of tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol in his hut. The militia “soldiers” learned to smoke their monthly pay on credit, gathered by Alcide’s hut.

Grappa was judge on Thursday morning. The black villagers would walk two days to attend these curious trials and lodge complaints…Grappa invited me to attend one of these sessions. An old man received 20 blows from a supple baton that would make a mule moo for 8 days. Why?

Grappa hates these sessions and has been discouraging the indigenes to come and save him these boring trials of same “harms done” and same complainants…And yet, they kept coming for the last 3 years, walking two days attend these sessions.

A young guy was to receive 50 whips last Thursday and did the disappearing act, because his third mother was sick…He arrived late after the session was over to get over with the punishment, but he was turned down, to return next week. He insisted of being beaten but was kicked out by the militia. He paid a quick visit to Alcide and bought what he needed…

One evening I needed to send a letter and knew that Alcide kept the materials in a tin box, the identical box used by all French Sargent.  Alcide felt embarrassed and tried to delicately prevent me from opening the box.

He relented and I saw the head picture of a lovely little girl in the inside cover. Alcide was mumbling kinds of shy confidence behind my back. I could live without confidences.

Alcide went on” It is nothing. This is Ginette, the daughter of my brother. They are both dead. The father and mother…”

“And who is taking care of Ginette back in Bordeaux? Your mother?” I asked

“Oh. I am taking care of her. I arranged for Ginette to attend an expensive boarding school run by nuns…I don’t want Ginette to feel that she is a poor relative… She is ten by now and write to me occasionally. Do you think that taking piano is nice for girls? I want her to learn English too. What do you think of English?”

I said: “Do you visit Ginette when you go home on vacation?”

Alcide said: I don’t have the guts to go on any vacation before I retire properly. If I leave for vacation, Grappa will replace me and I’ll lose my side trade… Ginette had suffered from infantile paralysis in her left leg. A specialist is treating her with electricity. Do you think Ginette will recover? Does this disease recurs?”

Alcide was talking with extreme precaution as if he could harm Ginette from afar

I said: “She’ll be alright and back to normal”

Alcide has extended his stay in this rat hole for another 3 years, a place were people died from yellow fever and all kinds of diseases like flies, and every one, whites and blacks were all sick and barely functional…

Alcide was about to sleep as he said: “It is hard on little kids, having no one to share vacations with.”

Alcide was already snoring and I got up to observe his face up close. Alcide looked pretty ordinary. I never took seriously this guy and might have had a little contempt for him.that he project

It would be swell if we could judge correctly a person by simply capturing the signals that he projects in the first instant we meet him, just to be able to discriminate the bad and good guys…

Alcide to not know it: He is in communion with angels. And I felt such a little creep, an insignificant impotent louse, compared to Alcide sublime heart.

Alcide was enduring hell in that rat hole in Africa, annihilating his poor life, in this torrid monotony…He was sacrificing his life for a little girl, far away, to have the opportunity for a decent life…

Alcide must be conversing with familiar angels, but he doesn’t know it, and nothing to the matter.

Would this little girl appreciate the sacrifices that an uncle endured for enjoying a decent future?

Note: Inspired from a chapter in the French book “Voyage au bout de la nuit” by Ferdinand Celine

“I was virgin to horror when I signed up…” (September 11, 2009)


            It is Arthur’s fault. I was minding my own business. Arthur insisted on inviting me for a cup of espresso.  He was saying “People in Paris give the impression of being busy; in fact they go for walks from morning to evening. When the weather is not appropriate for walks, when it is too cold or too hot, you never see them on the streets or anywhere. They are in their homes drinking coffee. They say it is the century of speed, of great changes; where are they? People keep admiring one another; that is all.”  And then he said “I don’t like politics. If my country asks me to shed my blood then I will be ready. The French race is a good one.” I retorted “You are wrong. This supposed race is a collection of miserable people in transit who were hunted by hunger, cholera, and the cold and happened to settle here: they could not cross the sea.” Arthur said “Our forefathers were better than us and we owe them respect.”  I replied “We have never changed. We do not change our socks, our masters, or opinions. We are born loyal; free soldiers of talking chimps, and hero for the entire world. King Misery clamp down on us when we do not prove to be sensible.”  Arthur said “There is still love”.  I vehemently replied “Love is the infinite accessible only for poodles.  I have composed a poem titled Wings in Gold.

            A God counting the minutes and the pennies,

            A God desperate, sensual, and growling like a pig.

            A pig with gold wings that keeps falling everywhere,

            Stomach up, and ready to be caressed.

            It is He our Master. Let’s hug him.


            It happened that a Colonel mounted on a white horse was heading a regiment in front of the Café. People were throwing rice and flowers on them.  I followed this regiment until it started raining and people vanished from around this exhibition. I had second thought to leave the regiment but once you are caught in then there is no escape and I was stuck as war recruit or volunteer.

            Once you are in then you get used to your new life.  They made me ride horses for two months and then they demanded that I start walking. One morning, the orderly of the Colonel borrowed the Colonel horse and never showed up.  We are walking on the road and I saw two black dots at the end of the road.  They were firing at us; I realized they are Germans who have been firing at us for some time; they are evidently lousy shots. My Colonel must have known why these Germans were shooting at us; possibly the Germans knew also; I didn’t know anything. I have nothing against Germans: I studied with German kids with shifty pale blue eyes like the wolves. We drank sugary beer; but to end up firing at me! This is not nice.

            The Colonel resumed his walks, head high, as if nothing the matter.  And then one of the bullets scraped my head. In these kinds of stories there is nothing to do but to flee. I never in my life felt so useless; a universal joke.

            I was 20 of age and wandering in the countryside.  I was virgin in my passions and surely pretty virgin in matters of horrors. Farms were deserted as if the owners did not want to disturb our journey in and around their homes and lands. We sort of owned everything in the land, fruit trees, chariots, cows, and even a chained dog. I always hated the countryside.  When the bullets harassed me I swore that, I may got to be a hundred, I will never set foot on any kind of countryside. I got to thinking “If the residents were here then maybe we would not be shooting at one another”.


            Then it dawned on me.  My Colonel is an idiot; he is a monster and worst than a dog; he could not imagine his death; he lacks imagination; he cannot visualize death.  There must be millions of idiot officers; that is why this imbecile of a war is going on. Am I the only coward in this world amid thousands of “heroic” kids wearing their metal outfits and behaving more enraged than dogs?


            I am more scared of our soldiers and officers than the enemy; more of us were shot and court marshaled by our own army than by the enemy; our officers always want to make example of courage! I don’t want to die my face in the mud, crap, and blood.  I don’t want to die in this desolate, dark, and cold environment.  I want to die differently. Am I not free to choose how I want to die too?


Note: This topic was selected from the first pages of the French novel “Journey at the end of the night” (Voyage au bout de la nuit) by Louis-Ferdinand Celine.




January 2023

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