Biographie-Memoires, by Célestin Lainé (Neven Henaff)1
Translated from the French by Daniel Leach with Guillaume Legros Annotated and with an Introduction by Daniel Leach
Daniel Leach, University of Melbourne
Guillaume Legros, B.A. (McGill), M.A. (Carleton)
This publication makes available to both French- and English-speaking scholars the autobiographical Biographie-Memoires of Breton nationalist and postwar exile in Ireland Célestin Lainé (aka Neven Henaff), leader of the nationalist group Gwenn-ha-Du and later of the Bezen Perrot from 1943 to 1945. The 65-page memoirs are presented scanned from the original French manuscript, as well as in English translation complete with annotations and a 10-page introduction. They detail Lainé's embrace of Breton nationalist militancy, commencing with his earliest childhood recollections and terminating in the year 1931 following the establishment of Gwenn-ha-Du. Although incomplete and by many measures imperfect, they form a valuable addition to primary sources concerning the history of Celtic nationalism in general, and of Breton militancy in particular.
Célestin Lainé Neven Henaff; Breton nationalism; Brittany; collaboration; Gwenn-ha-Du; Bezen Perrot; Celtic nationalism; France; Germany
"When I was ready, then I would declare war": The Biographie-Memoires of Célestin Lainé (aka Neven Henaff). Introduction by Daniel Leach.
The adversary was thus clearly defined; that was key to the struggle [...] In the meantime, it was pointless to talk about it, pointless to draw scorn and suspicion by revealing my long-term projects. When I was ready, then I would declare war.2
So wrote Célestin Lainé (then known by his 'Breton name' of Neven Henaff), recalling his fateful decision in 1922 to engage in a career of militant opposition to French rule in Brittany, at the age of fourteen. By the time these lines were composed years later, Lainé was regarded by most in his home country not as a nationalist liberator, but as an uncompromising and enthusiastic Nazi collaborator who led scores of young Bretons into exile, to imprisonment, or before a firing squad in the name of Breton independence and the perceived right to ally militarily with any power that opposed Paris, however odious, immoral or reviled by the majority of his compatriots.
These memoirs are presented here both in English translation and their original French. In them Lainé tells his own tale of how he came to embrace Breton nationalist politics in general and, perhaps most importantly, how he believed his personality and experiences led him onto the militant path in particular. In their original form they comprise 65 typed or printed pages, and detail Lainé's spiritual, intellectual and political evolution from his earliest recollections to his posting to the French artillery school at Fontainebleu as a second-lieutenant in 1931, shortly after the establishment of the small nationalist 'physical force' group Gwenn-ha-Du (White and Black).
|Figure 1. Untersturmführer Célestin Lainé 'Neven Henaff' in the SS uniform of the Bezen Perrot, 1944-5 ('Bezen Perrot archives'/Louis Feutren).|
Apart from isolated remarks throughout the text, these memoirs do not explore Lainé's later, more overt nationalist militancy nor his 'alliance' with the Germans during the Nazi occupation of France from 1940 to 1944 (Figure 1). References to the "Formation Jean-Marie Perrot", better known by its Breton name, the Bezen Perrot (which operated in a counter-insurgency and auxiliary policing role as a nominally Breton 'independent military formation' under the command of the German Sicherheitsdienst during those years) are infrequent.3 Terminating as these memoirs do at the very beginning of the 1930s, there is also no exploration of the subversive activities of Gwenn-ha-Du throughout that decade, including the planning, execution and political ramifications of the destruction of the Franco-Breton Union monument in Rennes in August 1932.
What we do see here, however (albeit late in the document), is the establishment of Gwenn-ha-Du as an organisation. Its slow and cautious evolution-in addition to Lainé's growing distrust of Gwilherm Berthou, a nationalist associate-is evidence of the care, patience and method the nationalist leader sought to apply to his political projects from the beginning of the period covered. Scholars of the organisational lineage of Breton militancy will note Lainé's unequivocal disavowal of any relationship to the group known as Kentoc'h Mervel (Sooner Death), which earlier histories claimed he had established in concert with Berthou in 1929.4
There is little doubt that Lainé was a singularly driven personality. The Breton autonomist, author and fellow exile in Ireland Yann Fouéré remarked to me in interview in 2005 that the charismatic young nationalist leader had clearly possessed "un fil directe au Dieu le Père" (a direct line to God the Father).5 Louis Feutren-Lainé's comrade in the Bezen Perrot, close friend in Irish exile, and custodian of these and related papers after Lainé's death-recalled him as "brilliant. He was original. He was a good friend, and he helped everybody who needed help. [...] He was a guru for younger people, like myself"6 (Figure 2). Throughout these memoirs, the impression is created of a singularity of purpose; of a young man with an almost messianic vision of his destiny as a soldier in the cause of Breton national liberation, through which he progresses in a manner he perceives to be logical and unflinching. This is, of course, a singularity of vision recalled a posteriori; retrospectively projected, perhaps, upon those elements of Lainé's earlier life that support this interpretation of his development and influences. Compromises, delays, and equivocations in the pursuit of this vision are presented as concessions to others, the result of intercessions by loved ones, or the consequences of sheer chance. Events that support Lainé's sense of his predestined role-even if entirely random, such as the drunken prattle of a sailor at a railway station, or the chance encounter of an old monument on a medieval battlefield-are elevated to manifestations of destiny; a destiny in which, remarkably, Lainé appears to believe even more firmly after the war, with his nationalist dreams in tatters, his memory cursed by the vast majority of his countrymen, and his projects arguably further from realisation than ever before.
|Figure 2. The late Louis Feutren at his home at Bray, Co. Wicklow, Republic of Ireland, June 2005 (photo by author).|
Even among Lainé's peers in the Breton nationalist movement, there appears to have been little faith that the former militant leader would one day break his silence regarding the historical events of the interwar and wartime periods. Consumed with questions of Celtic spiritualism (and perhaps mindful of what Feutren informed me was "the taboo of the Druids against the written word"),7 Lainé had generally appeared willing to cede the writing of his own history to authors such as Ronan Caerléon and Anna Youenou. When in 1977 he was at last motivated to take issue with elements of Youenou's lengthy work Fransez Debauvais de Breiz Atao et les siens8 in the pages of the Celtic League journal Carn, the League's General Secretary Alan Heusaff noted with evident interest that this was the "first time" Lainé had offered his own version of events, and it was hoped he would go further. 9
Early in the northern summer of 2005 I also interviewed Per Denez, a leading figure in the Breton linguistic movement, at his second, seaside home east of St.-Malo, Brittany. He too expressed disappointment that Lainé had not sought to explain, if not justify, his nationalist activism, let alone his later collaboration with the Germans and its consequences. Denez believed Lainé had a duty to Breton history, which he had abrogated by engrossing himself in esoteric spiritual questions:
What I find extraordinary is that a man like him, who had some serious responsibility in Breton history, in the Breton movement-he's the only one who took young people to fight, and young people who died, also-that he would just forget all about that, forget all, and just meddle with his silly ideas about religion and I don't know what else.10
I acquired a copy of these memoirs from a family member of the Bretons in Ireland a short time afterwards. However apposite Denez's characterisation of Lainé's religious ideas, we can now see that the nationalist leader had at the very least attempted to acquit his "serious responsibility in Breton history", even if the document attached does not extend to that most crucial period of wartime occupation, collaboration, and the activities of the Bezen Perrot.
|Figure 3. Oberscharführer Louis Feutren 'Maître' of the Bezen Perrot, 1944-5 (Bezen Perrot archives, Louis Feutren).|
Louis Feutren further informed me during an interview conducted at his home in Bray, County Wicklow, the Republic of Ireland that same summer that he had many of the former Bezen leader's papers in his possession, and was authorised to keep, publish, complete or destroy them as he saw fit.11 Feutren later permitted me to employ some of this material, including photographs of himself and fellow Bezen members in SS uniform which had never before been published (Figure 3). This was done with the proviso that the images would be credited to the 'Bezen Perrot archives' and not to himself, as he "disliked [his] name being spotlighted".12 Two separate bequests were later made of these holdings, it appears: the first in 2008, while Feutren was still living, to the Celtic and Breton Research Centre (CRBC) at the University of Western Brittany, Brest. The catalogue of these papers [PDF] mentions memoirs in addition to correspondence and similar items. A very recent article by Sébastien Carney focuses upon Lainé's relationship to the Breton language, making extensive use of a number of his autobiographical writings held at the CRBC-including, evidently, a copy of those reproduced here.13 No doubt scholars of Breton and Celtic nationalism will continue to employ these newly-available primary materials, and the memoirs attached here may be seen as a contribution to that general effort.
A second bequest was made after Feutren's death in November 2009 to the National Library of Wales. This excellent institution has long functioned as something of a de facto Breton national repository as well, given that there is no official analogue in Brittany. It was here that I found a good number of the primary sources related to Breton nationalism of the 1930s and '40s which appeared in my book Fugitive Ireland. Feutren's choice of the NLW was therefore a sound one and not without precedent, and the catalogue of the papers bequeathed indicates that many of them originated from Lainé, as well as other Breton nationalists in Ireland who had belonged to, or been in some way involved with, the Bezen Perrot or the wartime Breton movement.
Consideration in the last will and testament of a former wartime collaborator generated controversy for the NLW, however, with Feutren's additional bequest of the sum of £300,000 exciting the attention of the press in November 2011. Welsh heritage minister Huw Lewis declared, "I am [...] disappointed by the decision of the National Library to accept these funds and do not believe that anyone in Wales would have challenged them if they had chosen not to accept the bequest." He further hoped that the funding would go towards the creation of exhibits that would "highlight the terrible impact of war, intolerance and fascism".14
Whether Breton nationalists of the wartime era were indeed fascists or national socialists remains a point of debate. Nationalists insist they simply put Brittany first, and allied themselves to the power most able to defeat and potentially dismember France, and thus deliver them national liberation. Lainé himself addresses this point on p.107 of these memoirs, seeking to suggest that the term 'fascist' is one employed by his opponents to discredit the movement to which he belonged. It must be noted, however, that he does not unequivocally refute the charge:
Our language became by necessity a language of dominators insufferable in good faith by all French without exception, a language that made us be treated as enemies, what modern language calls fascist. It is similar to the Middle Ages when each sought to associate the identity of his enemies with Satan. Today Satan is fascism. The words have changed but things are the same.
The record of Breton nationalist collaboration during the German occupation-both of the SS-uniformed Bezen Perrot and other, smaller Breton collaborationist groups-is however remembered by the majority of older Bretons with a blend of outrage and repulsion, whatever the professed political motivations of those concerned. Had the Bezen and similar groups acted as a body and purely in the Breton national interest, "guarding trains" or something similar as Feutren claims was the original intention,15 then its legacy might perhaps be viewed differently today. Subject as they are to allegations that some among them participated in torture or even mass executions of Resistance suspects, however, it is perhaps not surprising that in some Breton-speaking areas the older generation does not laud the struggle of nationalists in the name of Brittany and freedom, but rather is said to remark, "Breizh Atav, mat da lav" (Breiz Atao, good to kill).16
As for Lainé himself, there is clear evidence here that his singular commitment to militancy led him to adopt a political position predisposed to fascism, or at least an accommodation with it. His rejection of intellectualism, his contempt for the "war of words" as opposed to "action" and "Science"17 are all indicative of the contemporary militant zeitgeist on both extremes of right and left, born of the respect for physical force so brutally demonstrated in the First World War, the Russian Revolution and Civil War, and (perhaps most influentially for Lainé), in Ireland with the Easter Rising of 1916 and the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-21. Carney notes too the impact upon Lainé of the novel L'île du Solitaire by Maurice Champagne (1924), in which a scientist seeks to impose his will upon the world. "The young reader", Carney observes of Lainé, "imagines [...] setting up a Breton state with the aid of a Breton army made all-powerful thanks to science".18
Coming to regard Germany as the power with greatest interest in defeating and dismembering France further fuelled Lainé's fascistic drive, assisted also by connections with the Alsatian and Flemish movements in France-themselves influenced by their Germanic cousins across the Rhine.19 Acculturated as he was with traditional French germanophobia, the account Lainé gives of his disconnection from France and subsequent attraction to Germany forms an especially interesting theme in these memoirs, as the nationalist leader seeks to explain why he felt France had forfeited his allegiance, while simultaneously refuting charges he was a German stooge:
It is as unjust to call me an adept of a "German philosophy", as it is to pretend that Breton nationalism is a creation of Germany. If it is found that the Germans have thought in a manner analogous to mine, this proves at most our similarity. If it is found that we and the Germans have fought the same enemies, this proves at most the concordance of our interests.20
There is evidence here also of a casual anti-Semitism in Lainé's writing: a reference, albeit brief, to students at the College of Sainte-Barbe during his stay in Paris, who were, he writes, mostly "Parisians and Jews, clever as monkeys" (malins comme singes).21 He further quotes a Breton priest who rants against the "Jewess" Saint Anne being accorded the status of patron saint of Brittany, but this is presented almost in quizzical amusement, complete with "(sic)".22 By contrast, Lainé tells of a "Tunisian Jew" who joins Breiz Atao. He appears surprised, certainly, if not somewhat amused by this adhesion ("one can see many things at Paris", he remarks), but there is no indication he opposed the man's admission on racial, religious or other grounds.23 This, then, is no anti-Semitic diatribe along the lines of Mein Kampf. It is certainly claimed, however, that Lainé denied the Holocaust in the decades after the war. "After a while, one avoided the subject with him," notes historian and author Peter Berresford Ellis24 (Figure 4).
|Figure 4. Neven Henaff (Célestin Lainé), late 1960s, around the time of his involvement with the publication The New Celt (Bríd Heussaff).|
The manuscript itself is undated. Carney, in his recent article, cites the source of the copy now held by the CRBC as "autobiographie 1946".25 Other fragments of autobiography in that collection, according to his references, are dated 1953 and even 1941. If one accepts these dates, these memoirs were apparently composed before Lainé arrived in Ireland in December 1947, while he and the inner circle of the Bezen Perrot were hiding in Germany. If so, it seems that the nationalist leader was extremely conscious of his historical legacy, and sought to exercise some measure of control over it at a remarkably early juncture... even if that effort cannot reasonably be judged a success.
Lainé died in Ireland in 1983, and it may be observed that the majority of the manuscript is typed (complete with carets and corrections in ink), while middle sections appear to have been printed by the type of dot-matrix printer in widespread use from the early to mid-1980s. It is possible that all or parts of the text were typed (or retyped) later by someone other than Lainé, perhaps at his dictation, or from a handwritten manuscript. There are repeated spelling mistakes of organisations and personal names with which one assumes Lainé would be familiar, such as Bleum [sic] Brug or Gerhart [sic] von Tevenar. There is also a page numbering error in the original manuscript, which jumps from 22 to 24 with no loss in text.
As much as has been possible and practical, the sense, mood, tone and wording of the French original have been preserved in the English translation. In this task I have once again been ably and invaluably assisted by Guillaume Legros, who patiently assessed my efforts and corrected them where necessary-which was often. His knowledge of the French education system and its jargon was especially valuable, given that schooling and examinations form a good part of the recollections here contained. I of course assume full responsibility for any and all errors in translation, but these are very much first-draft writings, which Lainé doubtless would have sought to rewrite and edit himself before publication. Where Lainé launches into turgid lecturing, we have allowed him free rein. Where he refers to French gentlemen by the English title "Mr.", we have allowed that to stand uncorrected, indicating as it perhaps does the impact of decades of exile upon Lainé's thinking, even when writing in his native French. Whether such errors appeared in the original manuscript or are the result of later mistakes in reproduction is unknown. The poem 'The Universe' is attached scanned from the manuscript, as the original is in English (see Appendix B). It is worth noting that the Heussaff sisters, Anna and Kintilla, told me in an interview conducted in 2005 that their father Alan's conversations with Lainé (or Neven Henaff, as they knew him) were commonly neither in French nor Breton but in English, owing, they believed, to the many philosophical works Lainé was reading in that language at the time.26
The Biographie-Memoires is neither an elegant nor even always a compelling document. But for one who repeatedly rejected intellectualism; who no doubt shared (if not originally inspired) Louis Feutren's consciousness of the Druids' literary "taboo"; who was criticised by his peers for failing in his historical duty to account for his actions, it forms a significant and valuable addition to the primary literature on Breton nationalism of the interwar period. As many of those I interviewed in 2005 are now deceased-Per Denez; Louis Feutren; Bríd Heussaff; even the stalwart Yann Fouéré, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 101-these memoirs of Célestin Lainé, aka Neven Henaff, may contribute to an improved understanding of a tortured period of Celtic and European history that is now rapidly fading from living memory.
Melbourne, December 2011
1 The original manuscript comprises 65 pages total, and is undated. See Introduction for further details.
2 See p. 65 (English version).
3 See for example p. 87. For more on the Bezen Perrot, see Daniel Leach, "Bezen Perrot: The Breton nationalist unit of the SS, 1943-45", e-Keltoi: Interdisciplinary Journal of Celtic Studies, Vol.4 (Nationalism), pp. 1-38, published 6 Feb. 2008; and Kristian Hamon, Le Bezen Perrot: Des Bretons nationalistes sous l'uniforme allemande (Fouesnant: Yoran Embanner, 2004).
4 See p. 108. Cf., for example, Kristian Hamon, Les nationalistes bretons sous l'Occupation (Kergleuz: An Here, 2001), p. 153.
5 Yann Fouéré, interview with author, St.-Brieuc, Brittany, 3 June 2005.
6 Louis Feutren, interview with author, Bray, Co. Wicklow, Republic of Ireland, 8 June 2005.
7 Feutren, letter to author, 6 Sep. 2005.
8 Anna Youenou, Fransez Debauvais de Breiz-Atao et les siens: Mémoires du Chef breton commentés par sa femme. 5 vols. (Rennes: Imprimerie Générale, 1974). Youenou was the wife of Fransez 'Fañch' Debauvais, leader of the Parti national breton (PNB) until December 1940.
9 Carn: A link between Celtic nations, no.19 (Autumn 1977), pp. 8-9.
10 Denez, interview with author, St.-Benoît-des-Ondes, Brittany, 2 June 2005.
11 Feutren, interview.
12 Feutren, letter to author, 2 Oct. 2005.
13 Sébastien Carney, "Célestin Lainé et le breton: la langue pour le combat", La Bretagne linguistique, Vol. 16, Nov. 2011, pp. 151-197.
14 See Steven Morris, "Welsh library criticised for accepting Nazi collaborator's money", The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/dec/02/welsh-library-accepts-nazi-collaborator-money; accessed 18 Dec. 2011.
15 Feutren, interview.
16 Hamon, Bezen Perrot, p. 169.
17 See for example pp. 64, 72 and 83 and 101.
18 Carney, "Célestin Lainé et le breton:", p. 156. See also p. 64 of these memoirs.
19 See Daniel Leach, "'A sense of Nordism': the impact of Germanic assistance upon the militant interwar Breton nationalist movement", European Review of History/Revue européenne d'histoire, vol. 17, no. 4 August 2010, pp. 629-646.
20 See p. 53.
21 See p. 97.
22 See p. 98-9.
23 See p. 99.
24 Peter Berresford Ellis, Re: Neven Henaff: Notes for Dan Leach, unpublished Word document, e-mail correspondence with author, 22 September 2003, p. 2. Ellis knew Lainé (as Neven Henaff) in London in the 1960s, when they were both involved in the publication The New Celt.
25 Carney, "Célestin Lainé et le breton", p. 152.
26 Anna and Kintilla Heussaff, interview with author, Dublin, 21 June 2005.
Biographie-Memoires, By Célestin Lainé (Neven Henaff)
"Tell me how you became Breiz Atao." This is one of the first questions I am in the habit of posing to young people who come to my door. The response is always interesting, as much for the content as for the tone, the delivery and the attitude of the party concerned. In many cases, this first inspection is enough to procure a sufficient idea of the utility of the potential initiate. I do not know who it was who wrote that one cannot judge a person by a single act; it is truer still regarding words said or even oaths uttered, and yet more again if it concerns declarations related to that which the individual believes concerning political dogma or other things. It is also true, however, that every act, desire, thought or physical particularity of a person embodies their entire personality for those with keen eyes.
Those that I look for must have good eyesight; they will not therefore be indifferent when I tell them how this happened to me.
1. "Catholique et Français toujours..."1 (Well-known hymn)
From my youngest years I was taught that I had the glory to be French and the luck to be Catholic; that all that was French was the most perfect from every point of view and that the Catholic religion was the only true one.
Little by little I learnt that there existed scandalous French who were not Catholics and unlucky Catholics who were not French, and even poor wretches (I dared not qualify them otherwise) who were neither Catholic nor French. As for these latter, the grandest service one could do them was to help them-by military force, if necessary-to elevate themselves to the status defined above. It was in their interests, even if they did not realise it, and at the same time increased the glory of France and of Catholicism. This was incontestably the will of the Good Lord who wanted the best for everyone, as everyone knows. It was Progress. It was Necessary and Inevitable, as History had taught from the time of Jesus Christ and Hugues Capet.2 And the planet would have attained perfection when all the non-adherents of France and of Catholicism were assimilated, converted or exterminated. Such was the profound belief anyway-real even if unconscious-of nearly all French Catholics. I learnt also that Frenchmen and -women spoke French, and that they had a Tricolore3 flag at home which they hung out on July 14th like my grandfather did, on Joan of Arc Day like many more people did, or on both days like a much smaller number of people did. Then Catholics said their prayers and committed sins, for which they obtained absolution by going to confession.
Even so, I quickly observed something quite obvious: most people in Ploudalmézeau4 communicated with each other by means of an incomprehensible language, and a good number of them-even the cousins in my family-I was unable to talk to because they did not know French. Their language was called Breton. Grandfather, grandmother, our aunts and my mother spoke with each other in Breton. They even spoke it with each other in front of us. Each Monday (which is the fair and market day in Ploudalmézeau), this intriguing language invaded the house and the family so totally that I felt isolated and reduced to the sole society of my brothers. The men of the countryside, moreover, wore wide hats with ribbons; the vast majority of the women wore long shawls and white coiffes5 like my grandmother and my aunts, but not like my mother. This was the Breton costume. There were therefore many people in Ploudalmézeau who did not speak French, did not dress like French people should and did not have a Tricolore flag at home.
"Grandfather, why do people speak Breton?"
"My little children, you must not speak Breton! It's the language of ignoramuses! Myself, I didn't start to learn French until I was twelve years old and went to school, because my mother didn't know a word of it. And I've had all my life to regret not knowing it well enough. Also, I don't want you learning Breton, I forbid you to speak it, and to go out and play with the other children here. Breton is the language of pigs."
I therefore had the idea that there were various sorts of French, just as there were brown cows, white cows and piebald cows. Ignorant French spoke Breton and dressed in Breton fashion. They were in the majority in Ploudalmézeau but in the minority in Brest; they were the peasants, the fishermen, the maids and the servants. Next, the French who had some education were more or less magpies in their language and costume. Finally, the superior French, a relatively rare species, were the French whose parents had prevented them from learning Breton when they were young. But all were French because Ploudalmézeau was in France, as was Brest; the same as Saint Lunaire, Papa's home region, and that of Nantes, my home town, and further afield still.
Such was my national conception up to the age of six years, and it remains so for many of my compatriots.
As concerned religion, I quickly saw that things were not as simple as I had been taught. Was Grandfather Catholic? He refused to make the sign of the Cross, did not say his prayers and did not sin. How could one imagine that Grandfather could sin? Grandfather took me by the hand to the strand at Treompan and to go see the boats at Porsall,6 he lifted me up so I could pick mulberries, he carried me on his back when I was tired and to go look for nests on the moors of Lesvorn. Beside him one had nothing to fear, neither from people, cows nor dogs. He taught me interesting things and amusing games. He always had sweets in his pocket. If a nightmare woke me in the night he would come to lie beside me and could send me back to sleep without fear by taking my hand. Never a threat, never a punishment, regardless of what I had done. It is clear that in goodness he surpassed most of my relatives and the Good Lord, that unlike them he had nothing in common with the gendarmes, the nettles, the dogs or the prickles. How could one conceive that one such as this could be wicked, even for an instant? How could one conceive he could sin? This was supported yet further by the fact that he had never needed to do penitence, he never went to confession, nor even to church. Yet he was not a saint since he did not have the golden circle around his head and he never wore the floating blue and red clothes which were the costume of those Messieurs one could see on the stained-glass windows of the church in Ploudalmézeau and even elsewhere. That was a little strange. It became agonising when I learnt that the people who did not attend Mass and displayed contempt for priests were reprobates destined to burn in Hell for eternity. My logic did not yet permit me to consider the case of Grandfather individually from those anonymous reprobates in the catechism. This was for me a worry and soon a torment. It was to me unbearable to know him to be in such great danger when he himself had the air of ignorance about it. I did not want to leave for fear that the Good Lord would take the opportunity to separate us. I made plans to convert him. I planned to say: "Grandfather, you don't think of going to Hell, but even so, just think if it were true!" I was timid, and dared not. This prolonged torment provoked my first revolt: "Oh well, I want to stay with Grandfather! If the Good Lord is so nasty as to send him to burn with the devils, I'll say: Then me too! Too bad for Heaven! I want to stay with Grandfather! I'll grab his hand hard and we'll run so fast that the hottest flames won't catch us, and he'll whack the devils who get too close and if they succeed in touching Grandfather I'll jump over them, I'll scratch them, I'll bite them, I'll tear them to pieces! Between the two of us we'll account for them. If not, too bad! I won't abandon you, Grandfather..."
One day all the same, I dared pose the question to my mother: "And is Grandfather not coming to Mass?" The question visibly embarrassed her. She replied: "The Good Lord knows who is good and who is bad. He knows everything. He never makes mistakes, and he is truly just. He will not punish those who have not been truly wicked." Whew! What a relief! Grandfather will therefore be saved; it was impossible to find in him any more wickedness than there was night in plain of day. Yes! But then...the catechism condemned to Hell those who refused Mass and confession. Was the catechism therefore wrong? And if it were wrong on this point, what was one to think of the rest? I was not a man to be able to live with compromises that we somehow patch up gradually as they crack. I have since learnt that it is sufficient for the vast majority of those who believe simply to be believers. They are happy again if they do not voluntarily blind themselves in order to deny the crack.
I'll write no more on the subject of religion. This relationship to events, occurring before my seventh year and so intensely lived that they have left me with such vivid memories today, must suffice to convince that it is as unjust to call me an adept of a "German philosophy", as it is to pretend that Breton nationalism is a creation of Germany. If it is found that the Germans have thought in a manner analogous to mine, this proves at most our similarity. If it is found that we and the Germans have fought the same enemies, this proves at most the concordance of our interests. More than anything else, I am able to testify-and those who know me know this-that considerations of political expediency would not lead me to distort my testimony, thereby depriving this writing of the character that makes it most valuable to my own eyes. Because I seek my brothers and my children; I seek my true fellows. How can they grow on a tree of lies?
2. You are Breton!
One fine afternoon we were in the cemetery at Ploudalmézeau when the bells started tolling strangely. "It's war," my father said. "Let's go home."
"What's going to happen?"
"All the men will go as soldiers because the French are going to fight the Germans."
"Because they want to make war on us, they want to invade us, kill our people, burn our houses, take our land and steal our money."
This was the first time I'd heard talk of the Germans in a concrete manner, but I knew already that their country was far away and no danger directly menaced us.
In November we moved to Brest, to a little ground-floor flat on the rue de la République. I entered into a class of ten at the Lycée,7 where it was my destiny to spend twelve years. Then Papa went off to the war. It's no use telling what propaganda we made, and how I detested those barbarian Huns who had already stolen Alsace-Lorraine from us, those repugnant, bloodthirsty cowards, those frightful heretics who insulted the Virgin Mary, those hideous monsters who cut the hands off little children, killing, pillaging and stealing, who had thrown back in victory our heroes bathed in heavenly light, virtue and sacrifice, who were comforted and sustained by Joan of Arc, the Good Lord, all the saints and the guarantee of Paradise.
It was the following year, my eighth, that my Breton question took a new step: I had already learnt that our country was called Brittany, and that it was an old province of France, among many others of similar sort; and that which was reputed to be French, beyond its intrinsic superiority, was applicable to all of France, whereas that which was Breton, beyond its despicable character, was confined to Brittany alone.
In our class, there was a wall map of France above the table, and I passed a good portion of my time contemplating it. Maps have always interested me. Brest was marked upon it, but not Ploudalmézeau, which caused me some disappointment. St.-Malo and Nantes were also marked, as well as Brittany, a large word curving downward, commencing not far from Brest and finishing below Rennes. Also near Nantes and the end of the word Brittany commenced a smaller name, Anjou. This was a province smaller than Brittany. But was Nantes-which seemed an equal distance between the two words-in Brittany or Anjou? Was I perhaps born in a region that bore such a pretty name? Impossible to judge from the map. Strongly intrigued and resolved to have a clear answer, I dared one day to ask my mother coming home from class:
"Mama, I was born at Nantes, right?"
"Yes," she said. "At Nantes, Quai de la Fosse."
"Is Nantes in Brittany, like Brest and St. Malo?"
"Of course," she replied in a convinced tone. "Nantes is in Brittany and you are Breton!"
"You are Breton!" That was the first time my mother had addressed that adjective to me in person. It fell upon me like a stone into a pond. Until now, indeed, the adjective "Breton" had served to characterise the Other: it was applied to the language that I did not speak, to the costume that I did not wear, to the countryside and villages, to the peasants and the fishermen, to the ignoramuses and hicks, to Others, that is to say, but not to Me... Me, was I not solely French? Suddenly I was Breton as well? On reflection it seemed to me all my relatives must be Bretons too, just like grandfather and grandmother. That was logical, after all, since they knew Breton, and grandmother and my aunts wore Breton costume. On the other hand there was no real contradiction, since Brittany was only an old province of France. That all fit together nicely. The sole novelty was that I was Breton too. But aside from the local character and the subordination of the term Breton to the term French-the one reigning luminously over the future and the other condemned to the ashes of the past, to the grandparents, to the "old" province confined to ignorance and the vastness of the countryside, being in the "process of disappearing", an image of which was taking place right in our own family; and grandfather found it good, and everyone was happy with it. Was it not Progress itself that was making us Frenchmen, eternally superior?
Nevertheless, I had the key for what followed: I was Breton, and I certainly did not despise myself. That which was Breton was not necessarily despicable. It was only despised...maybe even just misunderstood? The door was open to all revisions.
3. Brittany is big!
Around 1917 was the height of the U-boat campaign. We lacked crews. The maritime conscripts were retired from the front. My father, who was a sergeant and had been in the line along the Somme and in Champagne, therefore returned to the Second Depot at Brest. A short time afterwards he was demobilised, and received command of a very small and antiquated example of a Brest Steamer, the Hoche, which did the twice-weekly service between Brest and Châteaulin. It was interesting, this Hoche! It even had a little dinghy with an oar that Francis and I would take down and paddle all over the first pool, then the second and the third and up to the southern jetty facing the Santé, with no fear of being torpedoed. The dastardly Boche8 submariners wisely kept away from Goulet,9 and anyway we knew how to swim... What marvels were in those pools, above all around the month of May; mudcrabs which we caught with a curved pin baited with a bit of rotten meat, big starfish which we snared with a boathook, multicoloured jellyfish and all sorts of tiny, delicate and transparent marvels which we caught with a bucket, mussels, barnacles covering the fixed moorings... We would descend into the deckhouse with its two bunks, and from there we would go see the engineer, Mr [sic] Mahé, covered in oil and grease, who polished his tiny machinery: the boiler, the grand cheval and the petit cheval.10 The Hoche also piloted American ships. It was then that I ate for the first time snowy white American bread and chewed their chewing gum. I had seasickness several times, one time above all near the main channel where we stayed several endless hours dancing along the stationary hull of the battleship Pennsylvania. The Hoche had four or five hands, and all knew how to make holes in American sacks and crates. We never lacked sugar, chocolate, flour or petrol because my father was a good family man. The voyages to Châteaulin also brought back meat, butter and eggs, because the merchant passengers who refused to sell these to the crew soon found that unfortunate manoeuvres resulted in a chain falling on their panniers of eggs or a muddy boathook in their pats of butter...
One time, during the holidays, we all went out onto the floatboard with my father. Up to Landevennec we were accustomed to the spectacle. My mother was seasick, as usual. Thereafter, the meeting of this river with the tide was a magnificent adventure. We would pass very close to islands and nearly touch the high cliffs of bluffs. Further on we would pass between flowering apple trees. Further still were pretty pastures with cows almost within reach. My father would entrust me with the helm and I learnt how to steer between the red and black buoys. Then we would pass the locks and debark at Port-Launay, or Milin Wern in Breton. We would eat and stay at Mrs. Yvinec's place. In the evening we would cast out lines, and from the floatboard we would reel them in full of eels. Hidden under a projection of the bridge there were also a multitude of bizarre fish species that I'd never seen before, because they were freshwater fish-the tide not rising above the lock. This was the result of a nocturnal and illegal haul by the sailors, and of which my father had been well aware. Then we cast off lines and the Hoche continued to Châteaulin where we offloaded the sacks of sugar, the crates of merchandise and the barrels of petrol for the grocery store owned by Miossec. We headed back to Brest by night, under the watchful eyes of the stars, and the Hoche carved a marvellous phosphorescent wake through the calm sea. I had the honour of taking the helm and re-entering by the south channel, guided by the white arc of the lighthouse beneath the castle...
And I was able to state one thing: this entire odyssey took place in Brittany. From the other seacoast, as we called it at Brest, as far as Port-Launay and Châteaulin, Breton was spoken also. Châteaulin figured on our maps at the Lycée. How! Throughout this long voyage, it was only this little distance on the map. But Brittany was at least ten times bigger yet! I would never have believed from maps that this was such a big country.
Little by little, my estimation of the worth of things Breton thereby modified itself.
4. The Final War.
I was ten years old when the war came to an end. For quite a while we had known it was won. One Thursday (?) morning, coming out of the Lycée, I passed by the Champ de Bataille around eleven o'clock. One or two hundred people were gathered around the Dépêche.11 A gno12 came out with the little blackboard and hung it up without haste, adjusted his spectacles unhurriedly, pulled out his stick of chalk, read his paper and begin slowly to write. The people spelled it out slowly and surely: The Ar-mis-tice has been signed. They wanted no more; the women uttered unharmonious exclamations and some among them pulled out little Tricolore flags which they waved ridiculously above their heads. The spectacle seemed to me in bad taste. What effect could this have? I asked myself. Didn't they know that the war has been won for a month or two already? Without doubt I had prayed with all my heart that the Boches would be defeated, but this was already done and dusted. I returned home, then at 17 Place du Château, and announced the news to my mother: "They've announced that the war is over." She evinced hardly any enthusiasm, nor even astonishment. What would that do, anyway? Everything conspired to deceive me. How could the victory of our pure heroes, sustained by all the Saints and the crushing of the Boches, those vile serpents, how could this event so colossal, upon which everything had depended for years, simply pass by in so bland a manner? The sky hadn't fallen, the earth hadn't trembled, the sea hadn't heaved and the era hadn't changed. There had been nothing at all out of the ordinary. It appeared that the World Powers considered it negligible and that it affected them not at all, yet at the same time this was nothing less than the Victory of Justice, of Morality, Virtue, Heroism, Liberty, Democracy, the Minority Peoples, the Oppressed, of France and its Allies, etc., etc., over their repugnant and dark antagonists. Did the Good Lord by chance lose interest? Did it signify that this collection of all the Values of the World meant hardly anything? I went to sit at my desk, by the window where I had beneath my gaze the Cours Dajot, the basin of the nautical roads, the countryside of Plougastel and the île Ronde, past it the countryside of the peninsula and, crowning it all, the three summits of Menez Hom. This was my country. But, just like the Good Lord, it had not moved. I decided to act like them; I didn't want to go down to the town and stayed that afternoon doing my homework in the house.
And then, who was going to bring us Peace, for the maintenance of which we had fought so hard?
It brought us new teachers. It sent away the Americans and all the throngs of Poles, Kabylians13 and Portuguese who had accompanied them. It returned Alsace-Lorraine to us, which ceased in the new maps to be an unfinished task, and made appear a multitude of new states in Central and Eastern Europe. Any difference in language conjured up a State, which we sang the praises and Resurrection of all the more as it consecrated the abasement of the ex-empires of Germany, Russia, and the bonfire of Austria-Hungary. The new situation was moreover more favourable to the projects of the heirs of the Capetians. That interested me prodigiously.
The following year brought us President Wilson, who disembarked on the Cours Dajot. I slithered my way to the front row in order to see this great man. After an hour of waiting a covered car passed by in five seconds flat, followed by a great number of others. This glabrous financier, that commercial grimace which he wanted to be a smile but which resembled a ferocious rictus...that's it, Wilson? Decidedly I had no luck.
Another thing annoyed me greatly. Everyone said there would be no more war. "The war to end all wars is over", wrote the Dépêche. Thanks to the League of Nations, war has become impossible. If a State wants to make war, the whole World united will fall upon it; it would soon be wiped out. Without doubt, without doubt! So then, had the World of Men taken its definitive form? France would not enlarge itself any further, as it had without cessation since Hugues Capet? History had finished, closed, buried, before attaining its goal? This was a novelty indeed, but this mummification of the world was a negative novelty. What were they going to do now if the Greatness of the Fatherland, Heroism and all the Virtues that had led us to Victory became obsolete? And what would serve Justice if one could no longer combat Injustice? What would we care about? Sport? That's pretty dull. Saying prayers? Not very exciting. Work? Without doubt, but why? Cultivate the Arts? That's amusement for buffoons! Further the Sciences! Ha ha! It had the future within it but not, I thought, of the Pasteur-Vitamins kind, about which they kept badgering us. Aviation didn't attract me; I would have needed a lot more: at least a trip to the Moon or the planet Mars.
Meanwhile, and in spite of the SDN,14 there was war in Ireland, war in Russia, war in Turkey, war in Poland, war in China, then the Rif War; once more war in Syria, etc. "Prussian militarism is the sole obstacle to World Peace" proclaimed patriotic posters during the war (not those of 1939, but of 1914). It seemed that all the evidence proved them wrong.
5. Brittany should be independent.
Around my thirteenth birthday we spent our summer vacation at Porsall in a cottage on the farm of our cousins the Kerjeans of Kerorlaes. One fine August day, around noon, as I returned from the beach of Porz ar Vilin Vras, my mother came bearing a letter from her husband. She said to me: "Your Papa's boat, the Orconera, has berthed at Bayonne for a few weeks. You have already had all three prizes for excellence in your classes this year. Well, what would you say if we went there? Then we could also go to Lourdes..." The most beautiful fairy could have appeared to me and I would not have been more delighted. I paled horribly and could not utter a single word, but I suppose my appearance served to inform her because she smiled and continued, "All three of us will go; Francis and we two. Albert is too little; he'll stay at Ploudalmézeau."
I was over-flowing with enthusiasm as ever I had been on the way back to Brest. Two days later, around eight o'clock, laden with the multitude of packets and bags of provisions that had to be part of every maternal voyage, we took our places in the BIG train whose manoeuvres in the station I had been forced, since my fifth year, to content myself with observing form above, perched on the boulevard's breastwork. What marvels! At Kerhuon, the viaduct above the cove. At Landerneau, Mama showed us on the opposite bank of the Elorn the establishment of the Calvary where she had been educated by the cloistered nuns. Then we passed close to a Menez Hom grown enormous and menacing. How could it be the same we saw from Brest? Further on the bridge at Lorient... By evening we were at Nantes. Mama showed us as we travelled the house on the Quai de la Fosse where she had brought me into the world. "There, at the corner of the street, above the pharmacy," and then the Church of Saint-Pierre (?) where I was baptised. We left Nantes in darkness. Brittany had tired our curiosity. I slept badly. The next day around noon we were in Bordeaux. Another change of train. I remember a sweltering heat as we travelled across the interminable pine forests of the Landes. Finally, that evening, Bayonne.
My father had booked us two rooms at the Darbonnens'. They had a strange accent, and their cooking was strange, too. For the first time I had lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes... products unknown to my familial cuisine and which did not agree with me at all. We went to Biarritz where the sea was warm but very blue; the reddish sand and the khaki "boulders" struck me as strange and dirty, far from being worthy of their Breton homonyms. And then those teeming, clamorous crowds... We visited Pau and its castle which greatly impressed me. Naturally enough Lourdes also, which disappointed me, except for the ascent up the funicular to the Pic du Ger, but it had no snow. I wanted to go higher, where the snow would be...
The greater part of our meals in Bayonne we took on board. The chief mechanic had also had his wife and two small girls join him. The chief mate was also joined by his wife. Everyone ate together. One day, my father made the remark that everyone was Breton with the exception of the chief mate's wife, and joked to her: "Brittany should be independent." Everyone else laughingly approved, and this woman retorted: "And Gascony too, therefore!"
But me, I did not laugh. That paternal remark fell upon a sensible point. It had profoundly impressed me without my being able to determine whether I was at heart satisfied or scandalised. Maybe the two together. But what were they to make of France, then? To be possessed of such an idea, did it not already suppose that the work of the Capetians could be rolled back? Was it not to respond "no" to History, and even to Progress?
I had certainly not been capable of inventing this idea myself at this time. But here it was sown, and although it shocked all my education, it felt so pregnant with consequences that it had to be deepened further, if only to reject it definitively.
Instead of seeing it shrink, however, I saw it take form. I no longer despised that which was Breton; I knew that we were worth as much as the Slovaks and Lithuanians. Did we not officially welcome everywhere-and did I not welcome myself-the resurrection of all the Smaller States? Had the war not itself been fought to liberate the little peoples, to permit them to develop their cultures and their languages menaced by Germanisation, Russification... even Anglicisation in Ireland... why not Gallicisation? It was undoubtedly at work in Brittany... It was true that it was for the good of the country, but was that so certain after all? I had already been obliged to admit that France was no longer the premier nation of the world in all domains. And then if Breton was all the same the last heir of the Gauls, the last survivor of the combat of Vercingetorix, shouldn't it then be delivered from this pitiless Caesar?15
I did not know what to think anymore. In reality, my heart had already moved on, but all my thoughts were to revise, all my education weighed upon my reason, which hesitated. Deepening did not lead to firmer ground. One must look deeper still, but Good God! The question was too important, and I would finish by having a clean breast.
Returning to Porsall we passed through Rennes. I knew this was the former capital of Brittany. This was the first time I set foot there. Waiting for the train to Brest, we went out onto the Place de la Gare. It was sweltering hot. We sat ourselves on a bench. I tried to open my eyes to penetrate this mysterious capital, but saw only the dusty boredom of the Avenue de la Gare, and that badly because I suffered double conjunctivitis that my mother called a strike of the air in the eyes, for which she knew no other remedy than patience.
6. Breton, and not French!
From that point on things happened quite fast, and although the decision wanted no point at which to emerge again, the times brought me new subjects of reflection and allowed my conceptions otherwise to reorganise themselves. Now I was irritated when other persons, my books, the class, the Dépêche or French literature expressed contempt for that which was Breton; that is to say definitively to myself. This was quite frequent. As I found myself in a reactive period, they made me more and more antipathetic, but I did not discuss it; I didn't know how to discuss it; I hardly knew that one could discuss what one held in one's heart.
Also, I was not naturally bold; quite the contrary. As proud as I was, I was nevertheless timid. My distrust towards my abilities at that time hardly permitted me to act alone on such a question. It required an example to come from outside, an example in which I would recognise myself. Then I would be free.
It came, this example, in the shabbiest circumstances, but what does it matter how the match ignites the blaze?
The following year, which must have been the year 1922, a similar voyage-to Rouen this time-had come about through similar circumstances and events because I had obtained the prize of Honour of the City of Brest, conferred upon "the student of the third grade who displays his moral worth". It was the return leg of this trip that produced the inevitable. The hazards of travel deposited us in the middle of the night at a small station at Serquigny in Normandy. Despite its Celtic name, this place had nothing either pleasant nor tempting. We had to wait for quite a while in the company of half a dozen other travellers. Among these was a civilian in a state of disordered dress, coarse, in a state of evident inebriation. He wore a sailor's cap, carried a naval sack, and escorted a young girl of eight or ten years who whispered not a word. But what a man! He banged on, gesticulated and did not stop shouting until the arrival of the train: "I'm Breton, me! I'm from Saint-Malo! Breton and not French! Breton and not French!" An employee of the station, an open Breton-speaker in exile, attempted in vain to converse with him in Breton. He tapped him on the shoulder: "Yes, chum! You're Breton, too? That's good! Me, I'm from Saint-Malo! I don't speak brezonek,16 but I'm Breton all the same; Breton and not French!" He didn't stop expounding his credo, and I knew enough English from the Lycée to understand his refrain. I can assure you it immediately made me perk up, and that these blows of the hedge-bill severed my old worn-out lines. In three seconds I became free. The night was lit up and Serquigny had deserved its name.
For a moment I could have embraced the man, if he had sobered up and washed, but for the world I could not do anything-what am I saying? -I could not have even expressed a remark and I indeed did nothing at all. Neither my mother nor anyone knew that I repeated, at the same time scared and excited, "Breton and not French, Breton and not French". Did I not have enough to do now, carrying this lamp through my memories, my education and my projects?
I was too busy living the moment to realize the eminently Celtic character of the show, a station employee tenaciously pursuing his speech with this man in a language he did not understand-this possessed drunk so warmly endorsing an interlocutor that he was not even listening to-and a well-raised altar boy collecting religiously the gospel of the drunk... was it highly sensible, ridiculous, crazy, or all these at once? Celtia is living still, you see, despite Malmanche and Riou.17
In October 1922 at 14 years of age I returned thus to the class of Seconde18 armed with what one calls political convictions. If they were political I couldn't say, but as far as convictions went they were already solid since they had already begun to reorient my life and organise my future projects. To start with, they made me leave aside the second offensive of my ecclesiastical vocation through realisations, chief of which was that I was strongly attached to the World and to Brittany in particular; second of which was that if I were to devote myself in totality to my new radiant goal I had to conserve as much as possible my freedom of manoeuvre. What can I say? You're Celt or you're not: it's all or nothing.
This personal Bretonism lived long enough that I can remember it well. The microscopes of Poincaré, then the vigilant guardian of French unity, could not have uncovered the famous Hand therein,19 nor even a trace of the fingernail on the little finger of Germany, because I had retained intact all of the Germanophobia that he had inculcated in me. I didn't know at all about Breiz Atao,20 that Cyclops that had barely risen on my horizon and would fall upon my little personality and assimilate it in a jiffy, upsetting all my plans... until later. I lived in myself, building my plans and confiding them to no-one.
It may seem strange that during all this time I did not confide in anyone, even my mother. This is because at first I was very shy and it cost me a lot to reveal my intimacy. Confession had for me the character of a penance: the leap into this element of redemption was to me as disagreeable as a dive into water, an aversion I inherited from my grandfather and my other relatives who, all being sailors, found themselves sufficiently saturated with this liquid. Moreover, I was already aware of the cost of confiding one's most delicate thoughts to someone who does not feel the same way, and I could only suppose that this was the case since no one around me seemed to manifest any reaction similar to mine.
This lack of external approbation did not affect me significantly and my convictions were all contained within my self and not in Others; leaving aside the bare impossibility I was faced with, I did not see the necessity of putting a salve on my solitude; doubtless, I could fathom that other Bretons were built like me; and thus they could also find their mariner from St. Malo or whatever else; then, when the time was ripe, we would meet and each would bring as a dowry his life, his persona, and his means, such as they were.
In the meantime, I had to get organised as if I were the only member of my species. My duty was thus to build up my power so that my will could be realised; one more motivation to be the best at everything in my class.
While I could have been accused of being overly judgemental towards myself, I was equally harsh toward those around me; and much good it did to me, as experience taught me later on. First, the Breton people that I knew, that was all I knew. I knew instinctively that you couldn't expect much from them, that, like the poor, they wanted things brought to them, and first and foremost the most material of things. This instinct, I will not disavow it today. Our Sovereign, the People's Will, wants to sell high, buy low, not pay taxes, be entertained once in a while and live in quiet comfort. Dug out of Her hole, She is willing to make all the concessions, all the sacrifices, including of Her Breton characteristics if not of French unity. To rely on Her to support a movement of resistance to the State is already asking for much; to rely on Her to lead an offensive against the State is a perilous delusion; the principles defended by Gandhi and others may obtain somewhere but in Brittany they are a dangerous mirage. I could see for myself the importance of the State, I knew that we would never be able to accomplish anything in Brittany without first acquiring a State.
To acquire a State, that meant to do away with the French State. But how could that be done? As a good Celt, I could not even fathom that it could be possible to infiltrate it and then destroy it. My solution was direct. I knew, from experience, that France, as much as she pretended to be republican, was more than anything one and indivisible, the worthy daughter of the vulture Hugues Capet; she would not let go of her prey until she exhausted all her energy; she would always find Syrian-Vietnamese cases that she would support manu-militari until she would be ejected in a dirty way.
The might we needed was the might that does not deceive, a real might, naked like Truth: military might. Only this would deal with the issue and the sooner we got to it, the less we would lose time, ink and spittle. And anyway, wasn't I just simply arguing for a rapid and lasting peace just like France was offering Algeria and other places...
How to acquire this military might? There again my approach was not very democratic. As alone as I was, I did not see myself as necessarily outclassed by the entire French Imperium. Once I had gained access to the scientific means of the Solitaire of the similarly-named island,21 I knew that its entire immensity would not weigh much when confronted by me. I didn't think any less of myself...! Thus Science to discover, Science to gather financial means and others, Science to accomplish. In all ways and on all sides: Science.
This program was audacious-audacious and premature-but I set it in motion boldly. Even though science did not hold much appeal for me, I abandoned, not without regrets, the Arts; I restricted the subject of languages to what the program required from me and wrapped the whole in a disdainful discretion directed at those close to me.
I did not, however, neglect the Popular Will. Once I had succeeded, when I had given my compatriots a life as comfortable as the one they had but with the chance to be proud of themselves and to grow the Breton way, freely, I knew that they would discover me as a great man, a benefactor to the patrie, if not to humanity. In any case, this was nothing compared to the difficulty of, first, defeating French power.
The adversary was thus clearly defined; that was key to the struggle; the means also. Preparations were starting and would likely last for a long time. In the meantime, it was pointless to talk about it, pointless to draw scorn and suspicion by revealing my long-term projects. When I was ready, then I would declare war.
And now that the pot was placed in the fire, as it were, one could occupy oneself with the theory of manoeuvre.
8. The first toll of the bell.
The summer of 1922 had already provided me with something new: the discovery in the attic of my aunts' house of a Franco-Breton dictionary by Troude that had belonged to my late grandfather. Did Breton therefore have dictionaries like other languages? I had imagined it more uncultured.
Reading the preface was for me very useful. As for the rest, it was only Breton-French!
I did not consider it necessary then for me to learn Breton; this was not indispensable in order to combat France. My victory would assure the future of Breton and provide it with the circumstances favourable to its expansion. If I failed it would be too bad. I would just disappear. Others could start over, at least as long as Breton survived. As long as that was the case, there was still hope.
This attitude lasted until the following year. At the recommencement of classes in October 1923, I began learning Spanish as a second language. Our teacher was a woman, Mme Dubreuil. She asked us one day who knew Breton. Of the twelve to fifteen or so students present, there were only three or four who knew it, of which one was Jean Rohou. That pained me, and it pained me even more that she declared she found it very good that a young man of our country knew Breton.
Must it therefore be learned? After all, it could not be more complicated than learning English or Spanish. Grandfather had started learning French at age twelve and I had turned fourteen at school; but he, he'd had a schoolmaster to teach him. Where could one find a schoolmaster who would volunteer to teach one Breton? Did such a person even exist? In any case, I had to wait...
And then two arguments were slowly making their way through my brain. We always heard it affirmed that Breton was disappearing. This process had the ability to wreck all my plans. If I knew it, would it not still be living so long as I knew it myself? It depended upon me to ensure that we did not see it disappear, to maintain its possibilities at least until my final hour. This was already a result.
And anyway I wanted to extend its reach. I wanted people not to abandon it; that is to say, not do as I had done. I was exactly the bad example I sought to combat, in that I had not relearnt Breton. This vexatious situation must not be prolonged, but I could not see the means by which I could extricate myself from it. My light stock of Breton expressions was expanding only with extreme slowness.
Desperate to find a solution I had recourse to maternal resources. One fine day at the end of the year 1923 I found an opportunity to say to her: "Mama, see here! I want very much to learn Breton, but I don't know how..." She must have already sensed this and provided me a solution on the spot. She who never gave us money except for a single penny a week to hoard, she offered me the inseparable largesse of a five-franc note and said: "Go to Derrien's place, rue de Siam, and ask them for a book to learn it. Do you think such a book exists? Yes, probably... and mind the change!" I'd never thought it was so simple. It was starting to get dark. I bounded to Derrien's bookshop with a fear that they might already be closed. But not yet! Out of breath, I detailed my request to the old lady. And yes, they had it! From a dark and dusty nook she brought out not only one, but two, three, many volumes of different types. I chose a copy of Vallée22 and, seeing as it cost only three francs fifty, I was emboldened to acquire, despite my mother's instructions, a venerable Divizoù Gallek ha Brezonek23 which cost then only ten pennies.
I returned triumphant with my booty. My mother took the book, stopped at a Breton phrase, spelt it out laboriously in a high voice, then, after a brief instant of perplexity concluded: "Ah, yes! But it's bizarrely written and difficult to understand." My mother spoke Breton fluently, but had never learned to read it. With this discouraging judgment, she closed the book and abandoned it entirely to me.
9. The second toll.
The newspaper read in our family was the illustrious Dépèche de Brest. I was greatly interested in foreign affairs as viewed through this telescope. I thought almost exactly as its directors did, as my conflict did not exceed the limits of Brittany. The rest of France and the World were not affected by it. Resolved as I was to pursue the Breton State and the French power that placed our culture in peril, I had kept my old attitude insofar as those problems that went beyond the Breton frontier were concerned. Like all French patriots, I was a furious Germanophobe, a little pro-English on the surface with some hesitations, and pro-American with a certain contempt doubled with a heap of jealousy. Altogether it was an unstable situation, and is still so among many Bretons, even nationalists; in fact it evolved quite quickly.
America was withdrawing from the game, England was very prudent, only France manifested a vigilant activity: she occupied the Saar and the Ruhr, stirred up the Poles and Romanians against the Russians, fomented Little Ententes against all the defeated powers, whined about the English profiteers who stole Mosul and Palestine, throughout Europe and beyond. She was victorious, Ah, yes! She hadn't lost anything. She had acquired Alsace-Lorraine, Cameroon, Togo, Syria and the continental suzerainty of Europe. Hugues Capet could sleep peacefully.
Following her example, I concluded that foreign affairs could be interesting from a Breton point of view, as at last, all being as it was, it was necessary to defeat France and the last war proved that Allies were not useless, in fact they could even be necessary. And too bad for Joan of Arc and Progress!
Which States could become our allies? Who had an interest in destroying French power? Who would want to, and also be able to do it? A tour of France's neighbours wasn't very encouraging. Switzerland and Belgium appeared to me to be excluded. The same was true for Spain and Italy. England wouldn't want to anymore. Only Germany remained a possibility; she had been well beaten, diminished, demilitarised, controlled and everything else; however she still had to be regarded as a great power, because French patriots always had a strong fear about her rising again; they still could not believe they had been victors; they kept repeating it to convince themselves. In reality, and despite all their habitual bragging, they obscured the fact that they no longer had the mettle to wrestle with Germany, that they had in one year lost the war of 1870 and it would have taken much less, should they have been alone, to lose that of 1914 too. What about the other powers? America seemed to me another world. Russia was the same. Patriotic posters vilified, it is true, the famous Eye (of Moscow) along with that more celebrated Hand (of Germany), but this eye was so far away! Decidedly, only Germany was left, and that was very annoying as I continued to firmly detest her. It is more difficult to destroy a sentiment than an argument, whether it's a matter of politics or religion. Was Germany not this nation that preyed upon and sought to devour and Germanize smaller peoples? Happily between us and them there was France, sufficient buffer for a good long while. Later, we would see. And then, finally, the danger of Germanization lay in a hypothetical future, whereas the peril of Gallicization demanded an urgent solution. The Breton language and character were menaced with imminent erasure; was this the act of France or of Germany? This elementary statement must lift all doubts. I started to observe with attention all that happened in Germany, as one examines a viper likely to bite one's enemy.
Here reason was a step ahead of the heart.
10. The third toll.
The school year 1923-24 was that of my preparation for the baccalaureate. This was the first time that I went to confront my vast projects with the reality of the unknown Grand Examinations, and I was stricken with a lively anxiety. If this first step was a misstep, what an exterior handicap and, above all, an interior one! What would be left of my faith in myself? It was obvious that all my efficiency, over the course of my life, would have been struck by a coefficient of reduction, and I felt it keenly. Also, despite my very favourable situation in all examination matters, I decided to neglect nothing in order to succeed and the Vallée newly acquired did not suffer much from my assiduities.
One morning as we were in rows awaiting entry to class, the words of a discussion a few paces from me met my ear.
"That's idiotic!" cried one.
"No," said the other.
"Brittany is French!"
"That's not what the Rennes people say."
They quietened down because our assistant-master, whom we had baptised "Melon", was coming. I had jumped up as though I had been subjected to an electric charge. Before we entered the classroom, I insinuated myself behind the second boy in line, who was a Kervella, and therefore from Plougastell. "What did those people say who you were talking about just now?"
"That Brittany should be free."
"These are the people from Rennes?"
"Yes, there's a league at Rennes." He knew no more and I added nothing.
I had then like-minded fellows! They had even created a league! Things were therefore more advanced than I had believed. It was necessary to see just how much. Indeed, if I was admissible for the written exam that would take place at Brest, I would go to take the oral exam at Rennes!
I was admitted, and my mother notified me that for the first time I would travel without family escort. Furnished with a treasure of 150 francs, I left in the company of three other schoolmates. We took lodgings together, at the Hotel de Brest, of course! The next day at 4pm we were all received and I got the grade Assez Bien.24 Two of us were veterans of eighteen years. They attributed our success to unnamed divinities to whom it was necessary to make a sacrifice according to a certain rite that they already knew. Their assurance did not have too much trouble in persuading us. These rites, of which I knew absolutely nothing, involved libationary stations in all the appropriate locations and terminated with initiatory ceremonies in a temple to which my fifteen and a half years forbade me access. Therefore I was able to quit them without notable incident and reinstate my Catholic faith with my bed at the hotel. The next day, all light, all pride, all eyes and ears, I went about the unknown city alone. I found three or four Celtic inscriptions that to my great joy I stated to be such and even to understand, but not the least symptom of the mysterious "League of Rennes". Despairing to learn any more, I retook the train for Brest that night in the company of my schoolmate Jean le Rest, who had passed his oral exam that day.
11. Breiz Atao!
After the long vacation at Ploudalmézeau, during which I had notably improved my linguistic knowledge of Breton, I entered with certainty into the class of Elementary Mathematics. The exam of which I had made a world of difficulties proved to be easy. I signed up at the same time for a course in Philosophy.
Towards the end of November 1924 I overheard a discussion very similar to that of the previous spring. This time the defender was a student of the Naval course: a 'Flottard'25 as we called them. He had known of it longer than the schoolmate from primary school. He informed me that the people at Rennes published a revue entitled Breiz Atao that one could buy at Robert's place near the Old Theatre. As usual, I didn't pursue the matter openly any further but I was all ajitter inside. Finally I was going to learn something about this mysterious "League of Rennes".
Being a part-boarder I had to wait until the following Thursday in order to pierce the great enigma. Believe me, hardly had eleven o'clock struck than I hurtled out of the Lycée and ran straight down the rue d'Aiguillon to the place indicated. Robert's bookshop was a miniscule boutique beside or near the Brasserie de la Marine. I had never remarked upon it before. Behold! A sign in the window: "One can find here everything on Brittany, even on Bretons. One may recognise them as they read Breiz Atao." No doubt, that's it. I enter with my heart thumping and make my request in my most natural tone which, considering the circumstances, was also the most artificial. The little old fellow responds to me affirmatively, grabs an issue, rolls it up in complete silence and envelops it in a piece of white paper. See me now on the street, my rolled-up paper in my hand. I saw neither sky nor earth anymore, but only this white roll that possessed me from my head to my feet. Never did a fairy ever feel more power from the wand in her hand. So much power and also so much anxiety: that which is written inside, is it as good as I want it to be? These people of Rennes, where no-one speaks Breton anymore, these people of Rennes who want a free Brittany, do they understand by this a Brittany which makes a rightful place for the Breton language? I want to be transfixed right away but I could not all the same unveil the rolled-up paper in the street, in front of all these passers-by. No, no! Only at home! No spectators to my triumphs or disillusions. This would avoid giving these anonymous souls the temptation to pose as judges, of becoming those false creatures who pretend to be disinterested, those impudent beings who pretend to be impartial, those injurious beings who usurp a position that may only be occupied by the peers who have received you, and by the superiors who have been elected by you... I hear my clogs clacking on the granite flagstones. I have therefore been running for a while already? I dart into the rue du Château. I have wings. On gaining the rue Traverse, I hear myself say: "My God! If it's what I think it is, then it's my entire life that I hold in my hands..." Did I speak, or has someone else spoken? I don't know. But now it is me who responds with fervour: "Yes, it's true! It's my entire life that is in my hands!" I fly into the air. In one breath I fly up the four floors that lead to the garret that I share with my brother Francis. I install myself at my window. The sea, Plougastell and the île Ronde, Menez Hom, my country, is there shining and free, before me, with me. It was the only company I could tolerate at such a solemn moment. Trembling and feverish, I respectfully unfurl the rolled-up paper, murmuring instinctive prayers as I do so. There is the cover, black and green on a white background. I open it. My heart explodes in my chest... There it is! There it is! Breton on the first page! Nothing to fear from here on! I don't try to read it, it would take too long. I leap ahead to articles in French... That's it! Exactly it. From end to end! God be praised!
A thunderbolt could have struck and I would not have noticed. But something stronger than a thunderbolt came: a terse and threatening maternal order to come down to eat, and I tore myself away from reading. Nevertheless I could not be prevented from rereading it five or six times before evening.
And that is how, at the age of sixteen years, I made acquaintance with Breiz Atao.
12. First step.
Breiz Atao contained an exhortation to join its organisation, the Unvaniez Yaouankiz Vreiz.26
This appeal resounded within me like that of a trumpet of war: if it sounded assembly, it had to be because plans were already being set in motion, and all that was needed was personnel to engage in operations. On the one hand I was worried that joining such an organisation was premature, and would sacrifice the greater part of my already established projects; but on the other hand I strongly rejoiced to be able to gain time on my forecasts, since I knew how the clock was ticking for the future of the Breton language. All must therefore be attempted in order to transform this attempt into a victorious realisation. I did not consider for more than an instant, and joined, together with 'Flottard', our senior member, Kervella, and a third schoolmate.
Many others approved of us joining, but they stole away, they wanted to wait. Their reaction was incomprehensible to me. How could one not conduct oneself in accord with one's beliefs? It took me a long time to realise that the immense majority of believers of all dogmas are people who "believe to believe" [croient croire], people for whom words stand on one foot and actions on the other, the two feet never working together and revealing therefore their absence of personality.
I joined therefore as a volunteer for the duration of the war.
To my great surprise we were not directed to a barracks, or even to any sort of technical instruction. I had come well resolved to offer without hesitation at least one or two pints of my blood, a foot, an eye, a hand, my complete obedience and my submission at all times. Instead of this I was asked for a very modest sum of money, to peddle the journal, to wear a badge and to attend "faithfully" meetings of a branch that in any case didn't yet exist. I was disappointed that so little was demanded of me. And so, in order to be of service, I had to become the man in the crowd and seek out all occasions to do the old "have you seen?". This suits certain ages and temperaments. As for me, it gave me a deep horror. Alas! I'd come to kill the Enemy, and fell instead into a war of Words...
Far be it from me to pretend that the notion of making propaganda has no utility! But as a new member, I had had a completely different utilisation in mind than being a recruiting sergeant. Above all I had come to obey and to execute. I knew it was necessary, and I told myself that the rest would come afterwards and I needed to have patience... a virtue with which I have always been well endowed. With a deep sigh I forced myself to do that which was asked of me. The young are so malleable... I remember still that one of the next few issues had expressed the danger of not being able to continue appearing, apparently owing to lack of funds, at which I donated all the money I had right there on the spot. It was a little more than eight francs, and I was very annoyed to see that the French State took a significant percentage by way of the postage stamp.
In short, it forced me to recognise that there was nothing here but democratic plans; that is to say to some extent, no plans at all. This absence of long-term plans had at least the advantage of restoring the validity of my own, and leaving me free to plan for the major part of my existence.
It was not long before familial vigilance discovered my pot of gold, as it were. My mother read Breiz Atao and pronounced coram familia that it contained horrors to which she could not subscribe, "because Papa was a volunteer of 1914 in order to defend France". But in place of my condescension that she was in the habit of obtaining without great effort, she roused the combativeness of a young cockerel. Her words and actions were a blasphemy in my sanctuary. Whatever the penalty, I was resolved to treat her as an avowed foe if she did not cease her offensive. She was struck dumb by the audacity and force of my response: "Enough jokes! I myself heard Papa say that he had chosen the post in which he was mobilised!" This constituted an attack on my father, who was present. He could not be bothered to deny it. I noted in his silence the retreat of my mother, which was rather an effect of her surprise at my attitude. Maternal sagacity meant she did not lose her head. In a softened tone she told me that if I tried to receive this revue by post, I could receive it at the house, which was that of the whole family. Wholly surprised and recognising that this constituted then an unhoped-for favour, I declared that that would suit me a lot better, as the employee at the poste restante where I had to go to collect it under the name of the boarder 'Flottard' made unkind remarks each time on account of my youth.
Thereafter I received Breiz Atao at my home, and my mother changed her policies towards me. She gave me a little money. She told me I read too much, and didn't go out enough. She encouraged me to go dancing at balls with my schoolmates. I went therefore to the Kursal-Palace and to the Petit-Jardin à Recouvrance, but the brouhaha of these swarming assemblies gave me no pleasure. I preferred the cinema, having always had a lively predilection for caverns, vaults, churches and the Métro. But that's not where my mother wanted me to go. And her money served my Breton aims. Her policy change came too late, as happens to all that France becomes expert at... Therefore she combined her approach with careful attacks. She accused Breton of causing me to neglect my other studies, because I swotted over my copy of Vallée for half an hour every evening before bed. Here again she had no luck. On this terrain I was solid, and my scholarly success could not be accused of wavering.
Eventually we received from Rennes the instruction to go see Drezen,27 then editor of the Courrier du Finistère. Experienced, chatty, pleasant and not at all busy, he received me always and I became very interested in his conversation. He had me buy Emgann Kergidu,28 a good book with many points of view, the Barzaz Breiz29 and the Histoire de notre Bretagne by Madame de Guerny30 which stirred up my Francophobia, which otherwise had no need of nourishment.
Drezen introduced me to Roparz Hemon,31 who had come as a young teacher of English to the Lycée. Their personal actions and their commentary usefully completed for me what I read in Breiz Atao. I learned to consider Ireland of heroic times as our ancestral sanctuary, and its worthy modern descendant as the elder sister of our Brittany. I learned that our combat against French influence was not isolated, that the Flemish in Belgium and the people in Alsace-Lorraine were clearly more advanced in this than we were. If I applauded without reserve the efforts of the Flemish as I did those of the Basques, the Corsicans and the colonial peoples, the fact that the Alsatians and Lorrainers fought for their German culture shocked me at first, given that I was saturated with Germanophobia! It required the intervention of logic aided by Breiz Atao to expel the French influence from this last bastion that it still occupied within my sentimentality. I dedicate this remark to my German friends, hoping that their pitiable foreign policy will derive some benefit from it.In July 1925 I returned to pass my exams in Rennes. I finished up with Mathematics at the same time with the grade Bien,32 and Philosophy with the grade Assez Bien. This time I knew where the 'League of Rennes' was located, and it became obvious why I had been unable to find it the previous year: on the twisting rue du Vau Saint-Germain leant an old ramshackle house whose entry gave on to a corridor as narrow as it appeared hostile. The darkness which reigned in this corridor hid the secret of a shaky staircase leading to a nondescript landing. From this landing led an uncertain number of sinuous passageways no wider than a man. One of these led to several doors of mean appearance. The poorest among them, which had the air of a lumber cabinet, had stuck to it a piece of paper on which one could read, valiantly inscribed in red, "Unvaniez Yaouankiz Vreiz", along with some complementary information. If my description does not rigorously conform to the truth, may the Gods pardon me! Undeterred, I considered these circumstances from the height of my recent university triumphs and, just like Monsieur Clovis,33 declared: "When I have succeeded, things will not be like this..." Then I knocked on that door. I shook it a little bit. No response. I came back to try again three or four times. Wasted effort. Had they enough money to rent the door, but not enough to rent the premises that must exist behind it? I had to quit Rennes that year without having seen anything other than that shaky door of my dear "League of Rennes"; a door the state of which justified quite well Breiz Atao's incessant appeals for funds.
13. The war of independence.
There are times and places where the family abdicates its rights and duties regarding the education of children. But in the society of the Breton petit bourgeoisie at the beginning of the century, we had rather the opposite situation. Children were kept rigorously on a leash, and youngsters, the eldest ones above all, were able to attain their independence only after an often painful struggle. All things considered, this wasn't so bad. Weak characters were thereby pulverised, becoming creatures at once domesticated, conformist, without initiative, and completely designed to go and make up what is called good society. Others vaccinate themselves in a combat against these benign adversaries, who do not seek to destroy them completely. They emerge from this better armed for future combats against real enemies both within and without, those who will not miss if they are given the chance. They are better prepared also in terms of friendship, because the liveliest friendship is that which is born and evolved in the shadow of an enemy.
I am aware today, as I was at the time, of how much worry I was causing my mother. My development appeared to her unsettling in certain regards. She was a little bit like a chicken that had incubated a duck's egg. She consoled herself perhaps with the thought that I had been born this way, and without doubt she loved me anyway. And I loved her ever more also. I bore the worry I caused her, and felt a presentiment that I would be obliged to cause her still more. The will of the Gods arrays us one against the other. We observed with anxiety the bad blood growing between us but I didn't want to avoid it, and she did not capitulate anymore... Who pretends that the goal of life is the pursuit of happiness?
The summer of 1925 was marked for me by two grand events. The first was a family trip to the île d'Ouessant34 where we spent a week. The fantastically simple countryside of this great island elevated to a superior power the impressions suggested by the spectacle of our Léonnais Armorica,35 with which I had been habituated since infancy. For the first time I understood the face of the "ancient land of my fathers":36 it ceased to me to appear banal, and truly I fell in love with it; for the greatest part of my time there, I was busy making sketches that the French most likely stole in 1944, along with all my personal possessions. This voyage also increased my respect for the Breton language: four hours of ocean and the majestic swell of the Fromm-Veur formed a barrier sufficient to preserve across this vast rift the character of another world, and in this other world I found again the ancient language of my fathers. Here it was no more our dear local language heard here and there and parish by parish as on the mainland. Here it crossed over the Ocean and united foreign shores. Maps gave a false idea. One had to come here to understand that, like Henri IV looking upon the Château at Nantes, I almost cried: "Zounds! The Dukes of Brittany were not just petty nobles..." And it was no petty language, that which reigned upon the Land and the Sea...
Towards the end of August I read in the Dépêche that there were to be great Breton fêtes at Kemper.37 Such a desire compelled me to go, a desire so irresistible that I dared suggest to my mother that we attend. Alas, the family refused; but, seeing my disappointment, my mother thought that she would reward my university successes by allowing me to go alone-with a fifty franc note...
I spent therefore five days in Kemper, attending religiously from start to finish all the events of these "grand Breton festivals of the Queens of Cornouaille",38 only having eyes for the spectacles of the program, enraptured by the variety of costumes and by the dances, binioù39 and Breton songs which I heard for the first time in my life. A chord resonated within me between the confines of life and death. The goal was perceptible, after which it is desirable to die. Perceptible but indefinable and unable to be located, well beyond those poor figures and that teeming kermesse,40 who had not the least idea. In any case, you know if you have experienced it yourself, and if you don't know, I won't try to describe it to you. Imagine the pleasant aspect of the city dominated by Mount Frugy, traversed by the murmuring freshness of the Odet, perfumed by flowering gardens at multiple points along the river and crossed by little bridges-Kemper seemed to me like a delightful Breton paradise.
Upon my return to Ploudalmézeau, I tried very hard to impart my enthusiasm to my family, and to evoke for them all of the splendours I had seen. But they bade me hush. It was of interest only to me. I said nothing, noting with bitterness that I was becoming a stranger. What could I do about it?
"My poor boy," my mother said to me one day, "what did you imagine would be there? We are on this Earth in order to have a job, start a family, raise children..." I looked at her with terror. Did she know what she was saying? Had she not therefore in times past, as a young girl, imagined "anything else", something indestructible that she had thought snuffed out within her and sent back to another world, something else that she rediscovered with fear today in the eyes of her first-born?
I regarded her with consternation, powerless to speak. Is it not such things that one signs with blood and not with words? She must have sensed this herself, as my expression caused her words to die on her lips. "Mama," I'd had the desire to cry, "Don't go any further; don't try to start again; is it not enough for them that you'll be dead? Things aren't like this, don't you know!" She knew it without a doubt, if at present she didn't know it very well. She saw me in danger, daring not to begin again, not knowing what to do. Her fears directed her. After a silence she cried, "Oh, my poor little one! These Breiz Atao will lead you to your end!"
"I don't think so, Mama," I responded, more to ease her worry, and I thought then: "What do you mean my end? And anyway, what can I do about it all? What will be, will be, and that's what I want! If my end must come with it, well... let it!"
Another time maternal jealousy prevailed over these Breiz Atao who stole children-until the time when other mothers would in their turn insult these children... This argument had the result to anger me: "See here, Mama! Who do you take me for? If I have joined them, it's my business alone! They had nothing to do with it, thank Goodness!"
She said to me again: "You'll still have to drop these Breiz Atao before entering Naval College."
"Precisely," I told her. "I have no desire to go to the Naval College."
"What? What are you going to do?"
"Many of my schoolmates here are preparing for the Polytechnic. I think it's what I'm looking for; to pursue applied sciences. Since one must have a "position" (thus showing my acceptance of this dogma of the bourgeois catechism), I want one which, at the very least, is not in the service of the France I wish to combat."
"Hush your mouth, with your horrors! Don't you realise you'll harm your brothers who are going to the Naval College?"
"My brothers are men enough to look after themselves. I ask no advantage of them, and they demand none of me."
"And then you are all going to fight? You'll have the heart to kill your brothers?"
"See here, Mama! I'll obviously endeavour to spare them. But ask them the same question. What do you want me to do if we engage in enemy camps?"
"Hush your mouth! Shame on you!"
"No mother, it pains me, that's for sure, but I feel no shame."
"Shut up! Shut up!"
This type of encounter was to me rather disagreeable. To her also, no doubt. Nevertheless, she was forced to come back to it:
"How can you become an engineer or scientist? There are no careers of this type in Brittany, and we know nothing about this business here. At the Naval College, however, you can go often to Brest, and at least that's a career we know about, we sailors."
"Yes, yes," I answered. "It's because we know that career so well that I don't want to do it. Do you want me to describe to you how I'd be at age sixty? Look at all those old retired naval officers: they're all the same. Elsewhere at least it's the unknown for us. Elsewhere it's possible there will be what I seek."
"You're dreaming! You'll only find worse!"
"I don't think so, Mama! I want to see first."
"Hey, well," she added, "you can do what you want, then. You'll have earned money, and you enrol at the Naval College for only seven years."
"For only seven years..." I repeated after her. And I thought, "Seven years lost, seven years of false habits, seven years of daily hypocrisy..."
I confronted them both together and announced coldly: "It's decided! I accept the seven years of constraint since it's the best of what's left to me. Still, don't have any illusions about my sentiments and wishes on the matter..." But this to them was immaterial. They had got what they wanted. I had decided to cede on this whole affair. "Now that you are getting ready for the Naval College," added my father, "you can't go on belonging to Breiz Atao. I'm going to write to that Mr. [sic] Debauvais and get him to leave you alone!"41
"Don't bother," I told him. "I'll do it myself." This I did, and I showed him the letter, in which I assured Debauvais that I would continue to buy the journal issue by issue, as my sentiments had not changed on this score, and that I would rejoin later. My parents realised that they could not abuse their victory. My official divorce from Breiz Atao was enough for them. I continued to associate with Drézen, and Riou the joyous bon-vivant, and Roparz Hemon.
In the course of the year 1926, I tried once or twice to have my parents reverse their decision, to no avail. I resigned myself therefore, and prepared as best I could for the exam, because it must either be done well, or not done at all... I obtained the prize for Excellence in the entire class of the Fleet, and was admitted ninth-as an officer cadet, therefore-in the class of 1926 at the Naval College.
My parents were very satisfied; me too, but this satisfaction didn't last long. Hardly had we begun our vacation at Ploudalmézeau than my brother Albert, my mother and I were diagnosed with typhoid fever. We returned to Brest. The disease took its normal course. Albert was the first to recover, but then my mother died in September, and this affected me greatly as, despite everything, I was very much attached to her. Finally, I myself recovered.
I was strongly impressed at this time by a dream in which it was announced to me that I would not enter the Naval College. This seemed to me absurd, since I had been accepted and was now convalescing; absurd and contrary, since I had resigned myself to becoming an officer of the navy. I told my grandmother about it as a thing of absurdity, and relegated it to the antechamber of forgotten memories.
October came. My hair began to grow back. I learned to walk again. On the arm of my grandfather, I was able to go as far as the boulevard Thiers to watch from the Petit Pont as my comrades in the class embarked. It was like a dream. The Naval College sent me the course and scholastic material. I attempted to keep up to date.
At the end of October I could leap thirty centimetres. I presented myself at the College at Lannion, whereupon I was soon sent to the Maritime Hospital. After a week, the doctors gave me time off until the beginning of the year.
In January I returned to the Hospital where I was examined at leisure over the course of three weeks of anxious waiting. They concluded finally that I was not yet strong enough to start in the middle of winter and a whole trimester behind the others, and it would be wise for me to defer until the following year, in which my place in the new class would be preserved. My disappointment was strong: that was one year lost. But very quickly this resolved into a hope: could my improbable dream come true?
The family could not object to my desire to go to Rennes to study so as not to lose a year. I enrolled that February at the Faculty of Sciences in Mathematics and General Physics. In June 1927 I stood for the certificate in General Mathematics. This was the exam for which I was best prepared, having behind me a year at the Fleet. This was also the one that could have turned out worst for me: I only just passed, but I passed all the same. Armed with this success I endeavoured to persuade my grandparents to continue paying for my studies. My financial needs were reduced to a strict minimum, and those who know me are aware of what I'm talking about. My grandparents also knew of my longstanding antipathy to the Naval College. They accepted. May they be blessed!
As for my father, he took the most economic line: "I won't give you one more cent as I've already said, and therefore I can ask nothing further of you." That was fair enough. And as he forever kept his word on that score, no difficulty came between us thereafter.
I wrote therefore to the Naval College, renouncing my place in the incoming class of 1927. This brought happiness to another, not to mention to myself.
The Gods had decided that I was not going to the Naval College. They had granted me a victory, costly it is true; but I had not expected it. I therefore learned to trust in them more in future.
14. Solitude at RennesWhen I entered the Faculty of Sciences at Rennes in February 1927, I had not yet recovered my freedom of movement. The Unvaniez Yaouankiz Vreiz did not get me back straight away; nevertheless I considered myself as a de facto adherent.
The situation as it then stood was poor in terms of recruits. A student of medicine, not very sociable and much older than me, was the only other adherent, to my knowledge. Frequenting the Cercle Saint-Yves of Catholic students, I found that I was no longer able to make friends with those who did not share my Breton convictions.
I frequented also the phantom courses of Leroux at the Faculty of Letters. A woman of letters from Rennes, two churchmen and old, worthy Doctor Regnault made up the old guard in the auditorium, the last to be there, the indefectible ones. One would think they had been there for centuries. I associated with this glacial company, which eventuated in an exchange of polite salutations. Classes were however very interesting, and gave me a first indication of what could be a Celtic culture.
In short, my solitude would have been pretty much total, despite the existence of the "League of Rennes", if Drezen had not sent me to Marchal.42
I remember with gladness my discussions with Marchal, the founder of Breiz Atao. About eight years my senior but always unbelievably student-like, he was at that time working at home on completing his diploma in architecture. He would receive me cordially, without fuss, and would lecture without interrupting his work. Marchal was a very intelligent man and a lively talker. Thanks to him I became familiar with the already legendary beginnings of Breiz Atao, the various housekeeping matters, the first polemics against Action française43 and Bleum [sic] Brug,44 good jokes about Poincaré's politics, and the tricks and dodges of French democracy. He taught me to pour the wine of irony on the ice of my puritanism, and to present a somewhat more viable aspect. He rejected all Catholicism, although he was imbued with Christian evaluations. Knowing that I was myself a practicing Catholic, he brought this subject up with a laudable discretion. Owing to him I began to become aware of a certain awkwardness regarding spiritual questions: Christianity indeed offered me a general cosmology, but it was perfectly silent on the subject of my Breton convictions, which possessed me to the roots of my existence. On the other hand Breton patriotism procured for me the necessities of life, that is to say an enemy to combat-not a familiar Satan who offers us spiritual combat, but a vast enemy demanding a real war. Breton patriotism also kept silent on the subject of Catholicism: it was well evident that one could be Breton and nationalist no matter what one's religion. More dramatically, the Pope had just condemned the nationalism of the Action française. If I rejoiced over the difficulties that befell those whom I regarded as the most intractable of French, I was not unaware that the reasons adduced for this condemnation could very well be applied to Breton nationalism also, whose obscurity alone kept it from a condemnation of like kind. In short, it was unfortunate that Catholicism and Breton nationalism, tolerant of each other outside myself owing to their reciprocal and voluntary ignorance, would blend together within my persona, at the expense of my unity. Catholicism was fortified by its religious position, and had pretensions to holding within itself the supreme power, but it had not managed to regulate the temporal domain of Breton patriotism. This was in fact the master of my political position, and it pretended to sovereignty: but it was impossible for me to give it the crown, because it could not administer my religious domain, or even guide it, since it had raised up no such pretension nor offered any general cosmology. It was this serious failure to provide a usable solution to the religious problem that proved one of the principal stumbling blocks upon which Action française foundered. Without grasping the solution entirely, I foresaw that it was going to turn out the same for Breton nationalism, and my incapacity to solidly unify religion and politics, theory and practice, the spiritual and the temporal, caused me a certain amount of intellectual distress. Yet, thank God! They didn't fight each other. I had therefore the time to search for my solution which at the first attempt could not be the habitual solution of mummification in the status quo. It's true to say it was my Catholicism that was threatened: it had been cracked since a very early age and although many times plastered over, it drew out a hidden inferiority born of many compromises that doomed one in advance to defeat. The prolongation of its reign was maintained above all by the incapacity of my Breton convictions to evolve into a religious system.
At the General Association of Students we had a reading room well provided with newspapers and journals of all kinds. I read them assiduously and they in general agreed with my opinion. The major fashion among students at that time was the Jeunesses Patriotes of Monsieur Taittinger,45 which solicited me on several occasions as it did others: "It doesn't matter if you're a Breton nationalist; if only to combat Communism, join like we all have!" I declined obstinately. It wasn't enough that the JP deigned to ignore my Breton patriotism; and then I didn't especially want to be like everybody else; and then also why would I combat Communism, which wasn't the cause of Gallicisation in Brittany, and which these people wanted to attack because they believed it menaced the power of the "One-and-Indivisible"? On the contrary, this appeal and others like it favourably disposed me towards the struggle of Communism: it sought to build an international system in which, it was said, each nationality would be free to develop its own language and culture; it formed a minority within the student herd that was considered dishonourable, often in an unjust, even odious manner; their journal L'Humanité seduced me with its direct audacity and its real combativeness resulted in prison sentences for its attacks on the social forces that were also the oppressors of Breton culture. I was interested in the militant character of its anti-militarism, in its bellicose pacifism, in its Christian materialism and its Puritan amorality; its principles of economic and social organisation were not repugnant to me, given my modest origins and chronic poverty. Enlightenment! Social justice! Abolition of family and national privilege! All of this excited the brain. It wanted above all to realise in this world the Kingdom of Jesus Christ that the Church taught can only be realised in the Other. It blended well with my Christianity, and appeared to me to be its activist complement. Could it be here that the synthesis I sought between Catholicism and Breton nationalism lay? In any case I became a regular reader of L'Humanité; I deeply scorned the Jeunesses Patriotes whom I predicted would succumb to that Fashion which had led them and would soon drown them in the vulgarity of Numbers. Where are they today, these Jeunesses Patriotes? They are succeeded today by the Boulangisme of de Gaulle.46 It's the type of thing of the French Right that revolves and returns in forever-renewing organisations that betray the worry of its growing enfeeblement.
Marchal spoke to me also of unrealised dreams. Among other things, he showed me the national dishonour that was the monument of Union between Brittany and France which sat in the middle of our capital; a dishonour that would have to be swept clean before we could think of setting our heads right. I fully agreed with this point of view.
"But how is it possible," I asked him, "that it can still be there after sixteen years?"
"That's because no-one knows how to get rid of it."
"Is anyone prepared to learn how?"
No-one he knew of was prepared to declare himself willing to undertake the task, but all Breton patriots kept covering it with carefully renewed insults. It was still a war of Words.We spoke also of the real war. The most compelling argument that had been hurled at us since the beginning was that of the 250,000 dead Bretons of the French army, who were unhesitatingly transformed into 250,000 voluntary sacrifices to the solidity of the "One and Indivisible". And to balance this heavy scale, what did we have to present? Nothing. Not one. Not one Breton had taken up arms against France. Not one Breton had joined in Breton rebellion in the face of threatened Gallicisation. This absence was much more serious than the presence of the 250,000 on the other side; it indicated that we no longer had any Bretons who considered the Gallicisation of their country an insupportable and mortal treatment, as Breiz Atao had put it, and I at least thought they were right. What bad luck, I thought, that we had not been born earlier! We could have done something like Pearse's men in Dublin47 or like those of Casement with the German army,48 or like those of Mac Bride among the Boers in 1900.49 Wherever England had been fought, the Irish had been there, and this conduct had rewarded them with a rich harvest of young men, the glory of a victory against the British Empire and the possibility of developing their language and their culture, which was in sum essential. But in Brittany what had been done? Brittany had been absent in 1914, as it had been in 1870 when no-one had attempted a rebellion, nor an alliance, nor even any dealings with the victorious Prussians. The occasion, however, had been magnificent, and the time could not have been more favourable: where would the Breton language be today had a Breton State declared its existence then? And if the effort had not succeeded, it would at least have remained an example and a great encouragement for us, for the future. Alas! In order to find the red proof of Breton patriotism, we have to go back, from the hybrid plots of the Chouannerie50 backed by England to the conspiracy of the Frères Bretons allied to Spain, for which crime four Breton leaders were beheaded by the French at Nantes in 1720. "Are we preparing for the next occasion?" I asked Marchal.
No-one was preparing for it yet, but the "true Breiz Atao" would not budge on the principle. Always "principles"! Breiz Atao, like Marianne,51 did it wish to be nothing but fodder for lawyers? Do not think that I believe it to be useless to discuss such questions. Not at all. I only say that I believe that action dominates words because it is more difficult for it to lie and, therefore, generates greater credibility and thus greater efficacy. Do not think also that I condemn the Breiz Atao of that time: its means were so reduced it could hardly be permitted to act beyond its role as a teacher and hawker, and this at least it performed valiantly. In the end, we must remember that in the beginning there was 'the Word'; Breiz Atao was therefore at its beginning since it had the Word, and this Word had not yet been made Flesh...
The city of Rennes became my headquarters for the next two years. I felt the absence of the sea terribly, which, up until that point, I had never before lost sight of for more than a few days. The sea in the landscape: that's a snatch of freedom on the limitlessness of the world; it's also geometric simplicity and a straightness of horizon in place of the limitation and twists one calls the terrestrial horizon. In Rennes I had the impression of being stuffed at the bottom of a dusty basin, locked up in a hostile and consuming prison. Combined with the food of bad restaurants and the remnants of my typhoid fever, this situation produced in me certain circulatory problems which in turn translated spiritually into a certain repugnance towards this city. Later it would be worse still at Paris, but it wasn't up to me to determine the locations of my sojourn.
Having left the view of the sea plains which is freedom, rectitude, purity and health, I remained alone with the demon of limitation, tortuousness and ill health. One day when I was prey to the latter, I happened to discover a modestly dissimulating nook which revived my enthusiasm. This was the quarry in the hills of Coësmes. Protected by the thickets and trees that grew on the ancient hillocks of excavated stones, the quarry where once was all movement and toil had become the domain of a triumphant calm, of a deep pond which no wind could ripple, of a silence which betrayed from time to time the croaking of a batrachian or the leap of a frog. I would attend no future exam at Rennes without going the preceding afternoon to stretch for a few hours beside that silent pond. When later I was menaced either by nervous exhaustion or by the police, I would go there whenever I had the opportunity. I went there again in '44, just before the Americans arrived, but then I had learned to recognise my hostess. The Lady of the Mine, the Lady of the Grotto, Lady of the waters, of the silence and the woods, Lady of the shadow and of modesty, never bargained with me over her Aid in times of worry or torment. She always bestowed upon me peace of spirit and body, the necessary quietude and confidence without end.
If Rennes at first appeared to me as a city of demons, it was unjust for me to label it with this sole characterisation. It appeared to me again under another aspect, that which I had searched for in vain for the previous five years: Rennes was a Breton capital. The memory of the Breton dukes was perceptible to me in the Porte Mordelaise through which they made their first entry into the city, and in the Saint-Germain church in which I made my devotions. Then the Palais des états de Bretagne with its sumptuous rich interior, precious shrine of the past of this "province considered foreign", jewel today profaned by the Chicanoux, a building sober and pure, now sorely lacking the grand exterior staircase it had had in past times. Despite having totally submitted to the influence of French taste, like all its surroundings in the Place du Palais, the fine arrangement and the sobriety of line in this ensemble testified to a destiny as a capital from which the modern city was quite distant. Nevertheless, as the light rises above the heavy, the mind has dominated matter and the feminine has survived the masculine, Rennes has forgotten its Breton kings and dukes but it honours still those that are in its keeping. The Virgin of Mont-Dol, protector of Nominoë;52 the Virgin of Menez-Hom, protector of the king Grallon;53 she is the High Queen before which the future sovereign, locked in the church of Bonne-Nouvelle, would spend the eve of his coronation in a night of prayer above the city. The Rennais themselves have not forgotten her. At this highest point above their city, they have lodged at the summit of the belltower an enormous and brilliant statue of the Queen of the Heavens. It is she who signals the city in the distance. Radiant and golden, she stands out from the background of the sky which wraps her in a cloak of blue and white. It's a matter of taste, but there is no grander image than that which the Bretons of yesteryear called Sulevia,54 apart from the Sun itself traversing the heavens.
15. First Congress.
A little before the end of the school year, I discovered in the Cercle Saint-Yves a sympathetic peer. He was a student at the School of Fine Arts. He was a Breton-speaker from Plouguerneau, an Armorican parish like Ploudalmézeau, from which it was seventeen kilometres distant. He was a trainee of Abbé Perrot, the founder of Bleun Brug, who was then curate of that parish. His parents were modest farmers of the field, who worked a small farm in the countryside. The Abbé had noticed his aptitude in drawing, encouraged and mentored him, and I even think that he was paying for his studies.
At the beginning of the vacation I went to see him at his family home, and he led me straight to the Abbé. This little man had a look sparkling with goodwill, and radiated both a simple purity and the solidity of a stone. He liked to talk pleasantries, laughed like a child and possessed an immense indulgence for superficial things like all strong men. But I was of the age and sensibility to perceive within him the immovability of a solid Breton faith and the combativeness of a Celtic warrior. His great faith surpassed his logic, and his fearful temperament gave him renown as a poor diplomat since he had the virtues of the anvil that calls for the blows; but is it not on the anvil that arms are forged? I felt for him a strong affection from the first, and I am sure this was reciprocated. In my solitude I had found a Father! We both were aware of certain differences for which we maintained a respect, because it is necessary for the Son to differ from the Father, otherwise they would be the same Personality. From then my bicycle hardly ever lay idle: I would have had to spend a lot of money if the bridges over the Aber Benoet and the Aber Wrac'h had been toll bridges! His presence taught me as much as his conversations, and soon I was going to Plouguerneau more to see him than to see my comrade. The French who assassinated him with impunity in December 1943 knew well what they were doing.
It was also around this time that I had a first glimpse of that which I consider Celtic in the realm of literature. I say Celtic and not specifically belonging to the Breton language. Without doubt I acknowledge that he who is Celtic only develops fully within his natural milieu, the milieu of a Celtic language, but I cannot admit that some two hundred thousand blacks in the United States who express themselves in Gaelic could have greater pretension to the title 'Celts' than the majority of Irish and Scottish who have lost the language, let alone a good portion of English, French and western Germans.
As recently as the preceding year, Roparz Hemon had given me a copy of the Vie de Salaün by Tanguy Malmanche, and the reading of this French translation impressed me deeply. For the first time perhaps, the literary arts had spoken to me. Malmanche thereby obtained the highest pedestal in my temple, and this consideration I had for him grew as I came to know his other works, notably Gurvan, Ar Baganiz and Kou le Corbeau. In any case this is not adoration; it's better, since I had some reservations. This unfamiliar atmosphere of French literature, this complex of inflexible hardness and extreme sensibility often cloaked in a ferocious irony, this complex of vivid imagination and fastidious good sense, this was "my" literary Celtism and I was now able to relish it, more stripped back and older, in the Breton adaptations of Irish epic tales published by Gwalarn.55 I could now read the Breton without difficulty, and I hurled myself avidly upon literature of this genre.
That summer was the first Congress of Breiz Atao, that at Rosporden in 1927, and for a first attempt it was in all points remarkable. I made the voyage from Brest in the company of Roparz Hemon. I was at once enthusiastic and a little anxious as to the results. While the attendees peopled the local bistros where they gossiped a great deal and drank the same, I found myself in the still-deserted great hall where I and Sohier56 painted the Breton flags modernised by Marchal, the making of which was so complicated, while Roparz Hemon surveyed the premises alone. With some other party members of which the greater number have vanished without trace, I participated in the service d'ordre57 and mounted guard overnight by the flags in front of the hotel. The socialists were hostile towards us-they regarded us as reactionaries; while most Catholics saw us as Communists. That's all we need say about the press that we had in our country. The bishop of Quimper, old Adolphe, had presented us with difficulties at the last minute by forbidding the curate from celebrating a mass to be sung on Sunday morning, which he had agreed to do, in memory of the 250,000 Breton "victims" of the war. This then was only celebrated as a low mass, after which I went to the Protestant service of the same intention led by a minister who was a member of Breiz Atao. In short, everything went well, even the public meeting with attendant debate.
In the course of this Congress, the Unvaniez Yaouankiz Vreiz transformed itself into a regular political party. After the examples of the autonomist parties in Alsace-Lorraine and Corsica, it took the name Parti autonomiste breton, Strollad Emrenerel Vreiz.58 This didn't please me much as I had never been an autonomist, but I had more confidence in men than words; therefore this unfortunate name didn't prevent me from joining on the spot.
I very much wanted to attend the final excursion to Douarnenez, but at the last moment Yann Bricler59 requested me to take a bicycle across town for him. This led me to stay by myself at the railway station, and to be called an "old Chouan"60 by some local lowlifes. I called back "fransquillons"61 at them but the hostilities didn't progress any further. This was still a war of words.
The following evening I caught up with the excursioneers upon their return at Kemper, and from there many of us left for the Congress of Bleun Brug at St. Pol de Léon, our "Kaer Leon" (dear Léon). Awaiting a change of trains at Morlaix, I found myself for a moment on the pavement in front of the Hotel Bozellec with one of the Alsatian delegates who was fairly close to me in age, a student like myself and easily approached as a result. Like one of the Flemish delegates, Franz Vildiers, then a lawyer of Antwerp, I found in him a head every bit the opposite of a joker's, and I recall expressing to him my impression that we would meet again in our struggle against France. This was Hermann Bickler. We would both be imprisoned by the French during the winter of '39-40, he at Nancy and me at Rennes. Later he became my colonel while I was a lieutenant commanding the Breton unit "Jean-Marie Perrot" in the German army against France.62 The Congress of Bleum [sic] Brug at St.-Pol, although very theatrical and spectacular, has left me with few memories. It was the big cask of weak beer alongside the bottle of whiskey that was Breiz Atao. The Abbé Perrot and some of his colleagues strove ecclesiastically to communicate to it a Breton character under the stern and disapproving eye of the All-Powerful Bishop of Kemper. We could not help him in any way; we could only compromise him.
As an insipid spectator disengaged from the responsibility of being an actor, I gravitated easily therefore to Roparz Hemon, Marchal and Sohier. If I'm not mistaken, it was with these that dealings took place with a decorated Monsieur of Saisy de Kerampuil, who came up with the splendid idea of a Breton Consortium directed by him, and within which he desired to include all "Breton forces", including Breiz Atao. While he had well employed the impressive slogan "Unity is Strength", we remembered well that "gathering together makes a crab-pot of us", and the idea of compromising Breiz Atao with brilliant fantasies without a future was unanimously rejected.
16. The Student Federation of Rennes.
Upon my return to school in November 1927, I was very surprised to meet at the Cercle Saint-Yves several newcomers who wore the insignia of the party, the Heñvoud, which had been the symbol of the Unvaniez Yaouankiz since 1920, and which differed only in its sense of rotation from what would later be known as the redoubtable Hitlerian swastika. At the time it had no other meaning, and this protective sign against Destruction, of which the ancient Celts had made such great use, had long been and was quite logically the symbol of Breiz Atao.
It was the custom of the time for all members of a society to wear a badge near the heart, or even a little higher than their hearts! All things considered, this exhibitionism was more discreet than that of wearing coloured shirts with a Sam Browne belt that didn't support anything, a custom that had come from the Mediterranean. People this way disposed attempted to acclimatise this practice among us, and it affected everything between the two poles of our world: namely Ireland and Prussia.Beware of spectacular practices! I could not better compare their effects than to those of alcohol. They intoxicate actors and spectators and make them enter into fictional worlds where they must take care not to be abused, especially if one possesses an inflammable nature, a heart peopled with desires, or a youth avid and inexperienced. In exceptional cases they can constitute a good stimulant, but in repeated doses they can induce a divorce between imagination and necessity; they create worlds the least often in concurrence with the real world, falsifying all experience, mixing errors and truths together inextricably. The spirit of good faith is soon lost, distracting the compass with its good sense, distorting its view and its prophetic sense, and stumbles in a lamentable manner in what it perceives to be its vocations, ending up in pessimism or even nihilism. You, who are inflammable and true, be wary of deeds that lead to intoxication! Keep always a good dose of irony to dissolve these deceiving varnishes that cover these idols. Then you will see them naked, then you will deflate this skin pumped up with wind and you will refine your sense of true beauty which is also the beautiful truth. And if you are men of courage you will pursue it tirelessly come what may; your life will be a beautiful life, and a praise unto eternity to the Creator-Creature. We may thank Jakez Riou for having applied this treatment to polished idols. See that there remain semi-folkloric societies after "Gorsez digor", but see on the other hand those that became Nominoë after "Nominoe, ohé".63 Young people true and proud, guard against this force-feeding as a spectator and above all as an actor. The world on the other side of the railing or the balustrade may seduce you, but it has never given birth to anyone but the species of men of which it has need-namely illusionists and comedians. Leave this realm to those who by their nature will occupy it, or who will end up there through force of habit, which is second nature. Let your only theatre be that of your life alone, let the world of your necessity be at the same time the world of your illusions!
But this, this was then in the future. For the moment, I was overjoyed to have found like-minded fellows whose presence produced in me a favourable milieu for the growth of my polarity. Research into the opposing milieu as one observes in combat, marriage, physics and chemistry reveals the index of an activity that has reached its effective maturity, an activity having lost its ability to expand further. It is not wise to hitch the foal to the plough, to mix young males and females, or to hook up a battery before it is fully charged...
In short, I enjoyed the company of my fellows, which indicated to me my capacity to grow, and I asked no more of it. Since then, this phenomenon has seemed to me a problem quite difficult: how can one make the poles of one sort connect during the process of growing when the spontaneous reaction of one's maturity is to research the poles of the contrary sort? It's this that seemed to me to suggest the intervention of an exterior force that I called the "spirit" and which, along with energy and matter, formed the Three Aspects of Power. The spirit bringing us together despite our similarities was the one held by Breiz Atao, Breton nationalism, the Celtic will. But from whence did it draw this power, since in transformations nothing is ever lost and nothing is ever created, the spirit being subject like All Power to the grand Principle of Conservation that is the expression of Eternity? Now, I believe I have resolved this problem. The Celtic will unites men for life and for death, which is hardly the Cause of the Butchery. And that is because no-one ever died for the Butchery. The power of Celtic patriotism springs from the sacrifices of all those who have voluntarily given their care, their health, their decay and their death since Vercingetorix and before to Les [sic] Jasson64 and after. That's why I introduce the spirit, poorly defined by some under the term "vital energy", into the grand cycle of Power of which energy and matter form the other two of the Three-Faces.
And now I return to my story.
We therefore were equally enchanted to find a small, permanent Congress of which the kernel was constituted by my comrade of Plouguerneau, another from Kemper, Berthou of Saint-Brieuc,65 and me. As the rich attract loans, our kernel attracted members and soon we numbered around twenty to twenty-five. What an exaltation of the sentiment of power! We resolved to form a fully constituted and recognised group; we settled on the title of Federation of Breton Students and placed ourselves under the suzerainty of Breiz Atao. The latter would issue demands and we carried out an ardent propaganda among the students of the city of Rennes. Berthou was the president, and I was the secretary.
This brave Federation of Breton Students of Rennes would suffer numerous eclipses. Ours was the second of the same name, and would not be the last. They all slowly died as if it were the fundaments of their core. And then, after several years, the high schools and colleges sent to the university a new intake of freshmen who resuscitated it. The strength of Breton nationalism was not sufficient to maintain a continuous fire, but only a series of flames.
The student from Kemper, who studied Medicine, became my particular friend. We went around together whenever possible. He installed himself as my teacher of Breton conversation, and refused to listen to me if I didn't express myself in Breton. This was still difficult for me. Many times I asked him for the benefit of a little pause, but he was always intractable, albeit smiling. I owe a great deal to him: it's thanks to him that I came to speak Breton fluently.
There were now three of us students who frequented the Celtic courses at the Faculty of Letters and brought to them an element promising of the future. Joining myself and the student from Kemper, there was a student of law from Daoulas named Le Bras, who afterwards became an examining magistrate at Nantes, where I took up personal contact with him again in 1943 only a short time before he was assassinated by the French. One day the professor declared before the Old Guard that the work of all three of us demonstrated a good knowledge of the Breton language; I was especially flattered because the other two were Breton-speakers from birth.
It was in the course of this year that I made the acquaintance of the two heads of Breiz Atao: Mordrel and Debauvais, who were each eminent men in their own way.
Debauvais was a tenacious man, prepared for every misery; he had proven his capacities in making for himself a good education when in fact he was of very modest extraction. This was a man of good faith, gifted with solid good sense. He was also courageous and brave, assuming every responsibility that others abandoned; little by little he took on all the extra tasks that were left to him: administration, publication of the revue, research; each without recourse to financial resources, to which his own were totally sacrificed. He possessed the principal virtue of the director, well-grounded stability, which guarantees the continuity of an undertaking, without which no tradition can establish itself. He became very quickly the political tiller, keeping Breiz Atao on course in a manner beneficial to its independence in a milieu of compromises of all sorts solicited from both Left and Right. I had perfect confidence in his direction, and in his efficacy right up until his health condition deprived him of his faculties. Nevertheless Debauvais was a simple man, kind, devoted to his work without weakness, capable of evoking a real affection-and he had mine. His health, which he neglected completely in his service, never restored itself following a year of prison which the French inflicted upon him on the eve of the war. He died after a long illness in the spring of 1944, bestowing upon the Breton cause a contribution of capital importance and a magnificent example which will bring forth fruit so long as there are Bretons.
Mordrel66 was of an altogether different type, and made with Debauvais an excellent team. Brilliant spirit, intelligent artist and dripping with assurance, he was what one might call the mainsail of the ship Breiz Atao, of which Debauvais was the rudder. I always held a strong admiration for his talents, and he exercised from the beginning a grand, seductive effect upon me. But very quickly I learned to develop distrust of the application he gave his talents. So long as Debauvais was around him to channel his energies, the result was a happy one. But deprived of him, and also of Yann Bricler after he was assassinated by the French in 1943, Mordrel became more dangerous than useful. As he is not yet dead, I speak of him in the past tense so as to ignore his conduct during the years '44 and '45.67
The year 1928 was also, if I'm not mistaken, the year of the trial of the Alsatians at Kolmar.68 We were represented there by a lawyer from Kemper who came upon his return to speak to our Federation. His comments were surprising: "In the end, look what words are! With the French there's no other thing to do. Only one route is possible: take up arms!" Of course he was strongly applauded. That's apparently all he wanted because we never saw him again.
My feelings for Germany had by then significantly changed. From the stage of a foreign power menacing a common enemy she was in the process of becoming a sympathetic power. The film Metropolis had something to do with this. Although the social thesis of the film seems questionable to me, its composition, so original compared to the rest of the shows available to us, created in me an effect quite similar to the reading of the Vie de Salaün and the epics of old Celtic literature. This film was not by any means a first contact. In the eighth grade I had received as a prize for excellence the Contes d'Autrefois, an adaptation for the young of the poem of the Niebelungen, and reading it many times over had already impressed me deeply. Later, in high school, I had seen my first German film, Siegfried, of which I had abundantly dreamed. I must therefore admit that Metropolis was not an isolated case, but represented a Germanic culture related to Celtic culture, and likely to satisfy the depths of my personality that France and Latinity had not been capable of awakening. Thus was born in me the sense of Nordism.
Before the exams we decided to bring the activity of our Federation to a close with a pilgrimage to the battlefield of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier. We were about fifteen specimens, to which were joined Marchal and Debauvais and three or four other "militants" from Rennes. The "Petit Monsieur" dropped us at the station at Saint-Aubin just short of nine o'clock. After enjoying at the Hotel de Bretagne the meal that was destined to become tradition, we went in a troupe towards the moor of the Rencontre.
I was all eyes and ears following the tactical explications of Marchal and Debauvais after La Borderie.69 This was the first time that I had consciously tread upon a place where people had fought for my cause, and this was also the place where they had last done so.
The pilgrim who visits the Holy Land climbing the Mount of Olives could not contemplate these sites with a more avid eye, and his heart could not be more ready than mine to receive the miracle.
Thus this countryside so Breton, its crags, its moors, its meadows-its pine woods excepted-they had all been witness, they had seen undisguised the bloody fashion of the thread of old Breton tradition. Four hundred and forty years had passed, and no-one had presented himself to take up the kingdom of Nominoë. I scrutinised closely the face of the location in order to catch a sign which showed that, even though this was our first visit, we were already recognised as the chosen ones. Even if we were destined to fail, it could not ignore us because at least we tried, and that would be our life. That had to be enough. This I foresaw. What I felt so surely there was no need for me to seek approval for.
I strove therefore to impregnate myself with this landscape, which would be called to play an important role in my life. The explications finished, I left the group to better, if I can put it this way, get into the skin of things, and it's then that the miracle happened.
In the middle of the quartz rubble which is the rock of that country, I recognised immediately the unexpected and familiar tones of my Léonnais granite. Out of curiosity I isolated the small stone, laying bare the earth in which it was partially buried. "What a strange shape," I thought, then suddenly, "but it's the head of a cross, a granite cross!" As a faithful reader of Danio's History of Our Brittany, I knew that two granite crosses had been erected on the battlefield, which were thrown down during the French Revolution. In a flash I saw clearly and enthusiasm overcame me. "D., E., F., C.,70 come here, come here! I've found a granite cross, without doubt one of those thrown down during the French Revolution!" Debauvais and the others came also. The stone passed from hand to hand in relative silence. Naturally it found itself carried to the highest point in the vicinity, about a cable's length71 from the spot where I found it. A guy from St.-Malo who'd come from there by bicycle said to us: "I know a bit about masonry. Let's buy some cement from the town, come back and cement the cross here." That was done, and it has stood there ever since.
Believe me when I tell you that everyone spread out over the vicinity and it was closely investigated, contemplated and probed over each square metre, to no avail; no trace of another granite pebble. It hardly matters. The properties of the miracle lie outside rules; would repetition have lessened its miraculous character? All that we found was a snake that they killed right there, believing they did right.
That afternoon we returned with the cement. The streams were dry. D., C. and I went to look for water at the farm that was on the rise on the other side of the road. We found an old peasant who had in earlier times done his military service at Guingamp, where he had learned a little Breton. He was happy to show off what he knew: he remembered that a bed was called a gwele and a house ti, and that bread, meat, water and wine were bara, kig, dour and gwin. And he gave us some of his cider to drink.
When the cross was cemented in place, we saluted its new career with the singing of Bro Gozh, and we returned to Saint-Aubin. I remember still that while waiting the hour for the train we visited the ruins of the castle under the guidance of an old Trégorroise living in the area, and who was delighted to be able to converse in Breton with us. Decidedly Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, Loquelven am Marot [sic], were more Breton-speaking than we had imagined.
I was full of confidence in the fact of our Godsend; since that's what I thought then. Did not all of us who were there then have the same will, the same age, pretty much the same inexperience and the same possibilities? Were we not therefore equal, and did the happy omen not apply itself to all of us equally? Since then experience has rudely learned to rectify my beliefs on this point, and I have adopted the harsh but proud conviction that the Gods did not act on a whim the day they placed across my path the ancient fallen cross of granite inscribed with the name of Brittany.
17. The summer of 1928.
During the session of June 1928, I presented myself for certificates in rational mechanics and general physics, and obtained both with distinction. I had also taken the course in differential and integral calculus; nevertheless I thought it imprudent to prepare for three exams together, so I saved the latter for the November session. Then I fled as soon as possible to the seaside.
I remember that one time, while returning to Rennes around this period, Roparz Hemon announced to me that the first exam of the Simbol, precursor to today's Trec'h, was to take place the next day. In memory of the "Symbole", which in Breton-speaking areas primary school teachers gave to those of their students to wear who had been caught speaking Breton, and for which they were punished at the end of the day,72 Gwalarn had instituted an exam attesting to the effective capacities of the candidate in both written and spoken language. Graduates had the right to wear a badge by which they could recognise each other, but they had to commit to using Breton only in their mutual relations, both written and oral. I had not prepared for this exam and feared that I was still insufficiently articulate. However, at his insistence, I signed up and passed in company with a half-dozen other young Gwalarnistes, among others Jestin and Corfa whom I thereby met. In addition to Roparz Hemon the examiners were Drezen and Riou. It seemed to me that all the candidates were admitted. One bad aspect of this success was that I had two badges to wear simultaneously. I had for the first time the regret of not keeping a commitment: I decided that only one badge sufficed, and I chose the Simbol in place of the Heñvoud, not because it was newer, but in fact because it was rarer and more difficult to obtain.
From Ploudalmézeau I took up again my visits to Abbé Perrot, who soon engaged me for the pilgrimage from Plouguerneau to Sainte-Anne-d'Auray on the 26th of July.
It was a delight to go with my comrades of Plouguerneau and about thirty peasants of both sexes under the paternal direction of the Abbé. Breton was the sole language employed. We filled two large motor coaches. The Abbé, who knew and loved his Brittany, had the art of making this excursion a truly Breton pilgrimage. We stopped en route to admire ancient churches, but also megaliths, castles, and landscapes. We made a stop at Folgoat, the heart and sanctuary of Léon; at the castle of Kerjean, that marvel of the Breton Renaissance. We stopped at Roc'h Trevezel to admire from the summit the vast plains of Léon that extended to the north as far as the sea, and the broken landscape of the Poher which formed the horizon on the south. Then we admired at Uhelgoat the heaps of titanic rocks, at Kelven the tower magnificent in its solitude, at Bieuzy the rock cliffs that hang over the length of the Blavet. For the good Abbé, this was part of the pilgrimage almost to the same extent as Keranna.73 Brittany and Saint Anne were for him one and the same. And he was of the true Celtic tradition which, by means of the Hebraic Anna, continued to adore the goddess Anu of the ancient Celts, the Danu of the Iroise mythology, the Vieille-Mère, the Earth Mother, the Grandmother of the Gods and of Men. Just as her effigy was once promenaded through the fields in her chariot, the 'Anureda', we continue to carry her in procession before gathering together the harvests that she brings each year to feed her children. If Keranna is her sanctuary of preference, She is all of Brittany, She is the patrie herself, present in all of her domain. As the sun set and we could see on the horizon the statue that crowned her temple, goal of our voyage, we all rose together and the Breton hymn of Saint Anne burst forth spontaneously from the general fervour... That evening we even participated in her grand nocturnal procession and I carried in her honour one of the heavy banners from Plouguerneau that we had brought with us. The following morning found us at the mass read by the Abbé, then at his Breton sermon.
We returned home via Saint Rivoal and Saint-Kado. This was my first trip to the interior of the country outside of railway lines and I was again amazed, doubting not at all that I had attained the very deepest basis of the Breton Personality.
Then there was the Congress of Breiz Atao at Châteaulin, a very popular congress attended by several hundred people, with an air of evolved maturity in comparison to that at Rosporden the previous year. Foreign delegations were numerous. The Irish had sent an authentically wild compatriot who wore a short kilt and played on the summit of Menez-Hom some magnificent Gaelic melodies on the learned and complicated instrument that was the "elbow" bagpipe. The Alsatians attended in such numbers that Action française registered a strong displeasure "at hearing German spoken to the very end of Finistère". An enthusiastic Corsican delegate made a speech in which he announced his intention to learn Breton, but I don't know if he saw his intention through to execution. There were Breton dances and all sorts of exhibitions culminating in that of the bard Fañch Gourvil, who seemed to me at that time sympathetic; he has since been awarded the Legion of Honour and sings a completely different tune.74 The gendarmerie was also at the fête in the name of French law, according to which they had determined that it was forbidden to display Breton flags in Brittany; they came militarily to wrench the flag of the Congress from the window of the hall, and thereby installed it ever more solidly in our hearts.
This Congress of Châteaulin was the most complete manifestation of Breton nationalism I had attended. Along with the "youth of Breiz Atao" had come the precursors of the first Breton nationalist party, that of 1911. Le Mercier d'Erm75 was there, and made a speech. Maurice Duhamel became part of the directing committee of Breiz Atao, and he acquainted us with his leftist, federalist and democratic tendency to which we paid no heed but was nevertheless welcomed, just like him, in the general enthusiasm of the event.76 It seems to me that it was at this Châteaulin congress that the Central Committee of the National Minorities of France was created, between the leaderships of the three autonomist parties: Alsatian-Lorrainer, Breton and Corsican. This excellent institution needs to be resurrected as soon as possible.
After the Breiz Atao congress was held, as usual, the congress of Bleun-Brug. Then it was necessary to return to the world of necessities and prepare ourselves for the return to school.
My intention was to prepare for general chemistry the following year. I had kept the best piece until last, the term desired for my studies for the degree. To do this at Rennes required two years; as I had no more than that to spare, I thought it better to be able to do it in one year, but that would oblige me to move to Paris. That would be an expensive year. With the aim of decreasing the costs for my grandparents, I applied for and obtained a job as supervisor at the college of Sainte-Barbe. Then I returned for the November session at the Faculty at Rennes, who awarded me the certificate in differential and integral calculus.
Now licensed in mathematics, I returned to Paris, which was to be my scholastic headquarters for some years to come.
18. The Sorbonne.
The students of the College Saint-Barbe constituted a very different milieu from the relatively calm and docile scene of Breton high schools. The students were nearly all boarders, and comprised mostly Parisians and Jews, clever as monkeys, very disrespectful and undisciplined. In return for about five hours surveillance per day I had a small garret room underneath the roof, free meals in the refectory and a stipend of sixty francs a month. This was reasonable, but it was not possible to do much in the way of study because of the bad behaviour of the students. The little ones under the age of fourteen were still easily managed through the use of some terrorising looks. The older ones, who were preparing for their exams and of whom many were my age or even older, did not cause me any undue difficulties either; they only had to be left alone to do what they wanted on the sole condition that they were not noisy. The most difficult were those in the third, second and first grade, who caused me some truly painful ruckuses in their nervous hours, which were eleven o'clock in the morning and from two to six in the afternoon. At these times they acted just like the mob. In the morning, they're not fully awake, and one can do nearly anything without provoking much reaction. The worst time is the afternoon after they're done digesting their lunch.
I had there a comrade, a colleague cross-bred from a Béarnais and a Basque, who outside of his university activities was a teacher of French to a Japanese doctor of the traditional school (Figure 5). This latter had come to Paris to study the methods of occidental medicine. I had fairly regular interactions with both of them right up until the years preceding the war. I found they had very interesting insights, above all of which was their conception of the fundamental unity of the human individual, comprising his excremental products of all kinds, including his thoughts, his beliefs, his children and his handwriting; a unity which one can more or less influence through choice of "alimentation", that is to say what he eats, the air he breathes, the milieu in which he lives, his reading, the sights he sees, his learning, religion, customs and all the diverse practices that go into nourishing him.77
|Figure 5. Neven Henaff in Japan, c. early 1960s. Henaff visited the country as a result of his enduring friendship with Georges Ohsawa, whom he first met in Paris in the 1930s. (Bríd Heussaff).|
At the Sorbonne I took the course in general chemistry for my exam. My professors were Auger, Urbain, Pascal and Mme Ramart. In addition I took the course in radioactivity taught by Perrin and Mme Curie at the City of Paris Chemistry School, a course that interested me immensely. I made the acquaintance of a German Swiss of my age, from whom I began to learn German, the study of which appeared to me to be becoming very useful. But for the moment that didn't go very far.
My true comrades, these I found at the Parisian section of the party which was quite numerous, and where we talked well. It was here that I made the acquaintance of Mr Guiyesse [sic] and his family,78 of Girard,79 and numerous others. Besides the Paris section, we had the very nationalist Celtic Circle of the brave Mr Régnier, who gathered us together to learn Breton songs to prepare for demonstrations, and also to learn Breton at the weekly course at the Sorbonne taught by the Abbé Léon. This Abbé was very likeable. I will always remember the particular devotion which this man from Trégor held for Saint Yves. He got very angry if anyone made allusion to Saint Anne. "It's Saint Yves who is the patron of Brittany, and he alone! First of all he is Breton, and then he did something for Brittany, he did! Who is this Saint Anne who never set foot on our soil? This Jewess (sic) who has nothing to do with us neither here nor there! It's a grave error and an insupportable usurpation to bestow upon her patronage over Brittany! Let's not be fooled!"
All of these things were already giving me much to do. It appears then that I did not estimate it as sufficient, because I set to work with several specimens of my species in founding a section of the Federation of Breton Students. A student from the teachers' college from Kemper was our president and I was secretary. We entered into good relations with the Federation of Rennes, which was still directed by Berthou. One of my good friends in this Federation was a second-year student in the engineering college, the école Centrale, named Le Nestic, like me an assiduous member of the Section and of the Celtic Circle. One time he brought along two of his freshmen who were of my age and to whom I was at once drawn. That's how I met my friends B. and [missing] for the first time.
In addition to its twenty or so Breton members, our Federation received visits from young foreign students such as are always to be found in Paris. One of these, a Hungarian named Pardanyi, frequented us quite assiduously, and later wrote in his home country a very good thesis on the Breton movement,80 a thesis that Gerhart [sic]81 (Figure 6) later translated and had published in both German and French during the war. Another was my colleague from the College Sainte-Barbe. He was a Jewish Tunisian nationalist; he subscribed to Breiz Atao and even joined it. One can see many things in Paris...
|Figure 6. Célestin Lainé (l) and Dr. Gerhard von Tevenar on a Breton beach, 1938 (Trystan Mordrel).|
Our Federation even printed a bilingual poster, half in French and half in Breton, in order to invite Breton students. But the posterage was so expensive that one night we went, the teachers' college student and I, to paste them up ourselves on the public placards in the student quarter. They disappeared quite quickly; the professionals of the postering societies covered them with other posters because we had not paid the customary tribute. Their own proper racketeering functioned "freely". It was then that I formulated a consciousness of what real liberty was... not the theoretical liberty to which everyone everywhere subscribes, but the practical liberty which falls into two mutually-exclusive categories: the liberty of one signifies the enslavement of others. Is not the liberty of democracy therefore, throughout the world, the obligation of the least powerful to submit to the law dictated by the more powerful? It leaves you the right in principle to protest that to which you submit, but what does this give you? Everywhere and always, the problem of liberty is at root only a problem of power... It may not be very pretty, but we expose ourselves to all sorts of unfortunate illusions if we consider things otherwise. And it is considered by all bad form also to call by its true name the Sovereign of democracy that is "Hypocrisy".
At meetings of our section I learned again that to lose illusions was often difficult but always useful. Have you yourself not remarked that utility, and also truth, are nearly always the fruit of suffering? And that a world that pretends to eliminate suffering, worry and misfortunes thereby condemns itself to being only a world of illusions and errors?
This is how it happened: one time it was proposed to hold a public conference in the Salle du Faubourg. Speaking in our name to all, Mr Guyiesse [sic] bid Mr Duhamel, of the directing committee of Breiz Atao, our most experienced and most eloquent speaker, to come along and speak. This man then issued the following objection: "After such publicity the Society of French Composers will throw me out and I could lose the pension that they have to give me after a few years." What? Do I understand this correctly? I could hardly believe my ears. One of our "great leaders" had objected to this because he could lose his hypothetical little pension from a French society that was still some years off? That was then his measure of confidence in the Breton movement for which he had made such eloquent appeals for the personal sacrifice of members? This was the measure of the faith of this man, our "leader" who spoke so well? Alas! I was brought pretty low by it... But I have never been of a pessimistic nature. I concluded very quickly that I at least did not regard myself as being of that species, and that surely there would be others like me. From that day, while continuing to admire the talents of this Monsieur, I realised that which Gerhart would later formulate: "For us, intelligence is not a virtue." Today my experience would permit me to add to that: "They are rare and highly precious those in whom intelligence is accompanied by virtue." I must declare, so as to anticipate the commentators, that what we call virtue has nothing to do with the virginity of maidens or the innocence of choirboys.
That year also all my entourage banded together to urge me to enter the école Centrale. If I was, as was likely, admitted that year to the Chemistry general school, I would have to enter the Centrale in the second year, so long as I passed the general exams in my first year. Doctor Lorin of Ploudalmézeau, an old friend of my grandfather's, pushed hard for this and was soon seeing me as a big director of industry. My brother Francis, who was a major at the Naval College, pushed for this also. My comrade Le Nestic promised me his courses from the first year, and I was the schoolfellow of his two freshmen who also wanted to enter in the second year. Myself, I was not displeased to quit the university path which I was afraid would be overly theoretical, and I thought then that, above all, it was time to get my hands on practical matters, on applied science, on real life, because I was not studying science for science's sake, but science for power's sake, and it would not do therefore for me to lose sight of the "applications" aspect, nor of the "human" aspect, with which I would sooner or later tussle. Yet, I had no practical experience, nor of people in real life, and the university path hardly promised to allow me to acquire any. If only I had two lives in order to live the two paths! Alas! Life is limitation, and each new realisation reduces also our virtualities. What unhappiness it is to be obliged to choose, to limit oneself in the multitude of possible currents in the ocean of the world! I chose therefore to cut myself off from the life of the scientist. In some rare, dark moments I have had cause to doubt the price of my choice. But overall and today, even though I have lost everything during a life lived at the very bottom of misery, a life that some are still threatening to take away, I do not regret the choice that I made, the marvellous adventure that it bestowed on me and that will push our work further. My other life would have been premature; it will be lived by others, and they will have this opportunity, because I chose what I felt was the most immediately useful.
When my grandparents also joined in, I allowed myself to be convinced. I made it known to them, however, that it would be impossible for me to remain a study monitor at college and that I foresaw it would take at least two years of expensive study. These dear grandparents were inexhaustible and promised me that they would take care of it. Did I not realise the aspirations of their limited life like others will do for me? Perhaps this is the greatest love, the most egotistical and tyrannical of sentiments.
In June 1929 I obtained the certificate in general Chemistry with the Mention Assez Bien. I made therefore my application to the Centrale as soon as I could, and I began to tackle the first-year course of instruction on my own. This was a desperate race. Much of the material was unknown to me. All that summer in Paris was spent in a wild tension in order to cram in an entire course within ten to fifteen days, then to run to a professor's office for an exam, and from there to another. I remember Vergne who interrogated me on Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics: "Monsieur," I told him, "I must tell you that I was able to study thermodynamics but I did not have time enough even to open your course texts on fluid mechanics, on which topic I am therefore unable to answer you."
"Let's see about that," he said.
He posed me three questions on thermodynamics on which I managed very well, then two others relating to fluid mechanics on which I was completely stumped.
"I see you spoke the truth," he said to me, "but you're a strange one. This is easily the first time that I've found a student who declares his areas of ignorance from the outset. I'm giving you twelve out of twenty, that is to say you have not failed, but act no more like this. It will bring you unhappiness. Goodbye!"
The architecture course that I had had time to fully understand brought me an eighteen, and everything passed well up until the final exam on the machine course, on the eve of the return to classes. This went catastrophically, and brought upon me the imprecations of Professor Pillou who graded me an eight! I thought everything was lost. Nevertheless, I presented myself the next morning at the deputy director's office to receive the verdict. The courtyard below me was full of hundreds of students who soon disappeared into the amphitheatre. Would it be the same as the Naval College? At that moment the deputy director addressed me. He was a brusque man. Brandishing the unlucky report from the previous evening, he began in such an aggressive manner that I could only wait for an interruption in his discourse so as to express my regrets and take my leave. But he did not cease and hope was reborn: "In any case your average grade is thirteen and a half. Although this is poor, we have consented to offer you a chance. You must pass these exams again in company with your comrades who are commencing their second year. If your reports are then satisfactory, you will be admitted to the incoming class. Now, here's a note of introduction for the Commandant of the second year, and you go and join the others in the amphitheatre. Go!"
None too proud, I found the Commandant, a very brave man who asked me if I knew anyone in the intake. I named B. "It's impossible for me to place you in the same study hall with him," he told me. "It's full. I'm going to put you in the next hall with twelve other young folks who will quickly become your comrades. Are you lodging in the city?"
"No," I told him, "I'm the monitor at the College Sainte-Barbe, but I have to find a new place."
"The student house on the rue de Citeaux is full, but you have the possibility of lodging here at the School in a communal dwelling where there are already a dozen students of the first year. It's neither magnificent nor comfortable, but it's not expensive."
I thanked him sincerely. During the break at ten o'clock I looked for and found Le Nestic, B. and L. They congratulated me and helped me in all the introductions. At midday I returned to Sainte-Barbe to take my leave. The administration could not have been more charming. Everyone complimented me and the Director gave me no difficulty in my abrupt departure. That very evening I moved out, a frequent operation that was always very easy for me.
In the course of the first trimester we all passed those particularly terrible exams on the subject matter of the first year. This time it was much better. In the machine course I even got a fifteen, and Pillou gladly retracted his bad reports of the previous month. At results time at the end of the trimester my average exceeded sixteen and I was close to thirtieth in the two-hundred-plus students of my cohort. No-one could henceforth contest my quality as a Carré82 of the Centrale.
19. L'école Centrale.
The two years which followed were from the Breton point of view but weaker repetitions of the preceding year. I frequented the same places and the same persons with rather less assiduity because the work at the Centrale gave me great pressure and left very little free time. I studied there how to demolish the memory, and therefore the personality. With training I came like others to learn in a few days, and soon in a few hours, the subject of a weekly question, an unbelievable quantity of teachings which one would forget quickly and move on to the next. We had no time to fully appreciate anything, we'd seen everything but it did not stay with us. We learned everything, but assimilated nothing. I gained in any case a disliking for the forced learning of these Grandes écoles, where the predominant preoccupation with speed and output forms these rapid, restless, mediocre and unprincipled men, often intelligent but rarely profound, that our modern industrial civilisation needs so much. So many individualities oppressed and crushed to the rhythm of jazz swing, whose noisy and hurried agitation leaves behind nothing but the emptiness of the desert!
I'm reminded, however, that I replaced the Abbé Léon for some months in his Breton course of the Celtic Circle at the Sorbonne. From student I had become the professor! I'm reminded also of having become acquainted, thanks to our comrade Le Menn, with Celtic music, in which I particularly enjoyed Irish melodies. Never had any music spoken to me like this, and nothing I've heard since has replaced it in my passion. I must admit that, right from its first measures, I am able to recognise the Irish character of an unknown melody by the ecstasy that seizes me, and by the invincible solicitation which calls me to suspend all other activities on the spot. Compared to this grand dame, whose simplicity allows us a glimpse of a refined culture, and whose extreme originality amplifies upon a note of intimate resonance, the other Celtic music forms-including Breton music-appear to me to be poor relations. It is the same with music as it is with ancient literature, with the illuminated manuscripts, and with the Celtic warrior traditions. Thus I am obliged to recognise in Ireland one of the poles of my Brittany. This Irish orientation even led me to the course of Mademoiselle Sjoestedr [sic]83 at the Sorbonne where, in company with two of my dear Breton friends, I began to learn Irish. Again I had to limit myself, although never definitively renouncing it.
Le Menn even converted me to the cult of the binioù, to which I submitted in a small crisis that lasted about six months.
During the vacation of summer 1930, I spent a training course of one month at the laboratory of the Kuhlmann plant at Madeleine-lez-Lille. I made thus a first contact with these people as lively as their country is discouraging, and among whom I would live for several years sometime later. I profited from going to see the Abbé G.84 at his home, a personality as agreeable as he was original, the veritable motor of the Flemish movement in the Nord department and with whom I had been put in touch by Abbé Perrot. He took me for the first time to Belgium where I attended with him the annual meeting of old Flemish combatants at Dixmude. Difficulties arose between the Flemish nationalist crowd and the Belgian gendarmerie, who even made a charge on horseback in order to clear a street. The actions and reactions were to me rather incomprehensible, because I did not have then a sufficient knowledge of the Germanic temperament. Nevertheless I wrote for the first time an account of the happenings as an article for Breiz Atao, which was published shortly thereafter.
I participated also in the congress of Breiz Atao at Saint-Brieuc. I was even instructed to give an address summarising the activity of Breton students at Paris. During this congress I cautiously felt out the terrain on the idea of a secret society designed to engage in action in the Irish manner. This was the subject of a conversation between Berthou and myself at the end of the congress. We decided to stay in contact, and each to explore his milieu.
I participated as well in a congress of Bleun-Brug at Guingamp, again in the company of Abbé Perrot and my comrades from Plouguerneau. This congress finished with an excursion along the Trégor coast, with which I thereby became acquainted.
It was then that notable events occurred in Breiz Atao. Under the influence of Duhamel, it had been decided to buy the Commercial Printery of Brittany at Rennes so as to transform the Bohemian nomad that had always been Breiz Atao into a modern political organ, with the premises and base associated with any respectable financial entity. In order to buy it, we established a building society called the Kevredad-kretaat evit adsevel Breiz,85 to which I subscribed without giving myself too many illusions. However it was useful as an experience, as it persuaded me that a sincere enterprise rich in faith can barely continue to live in the hustle and bustle of the world of business. Hopefully the younger generations won't have to make the same costly mistake in order to learn for themselves that which I advance here.
Then, still on that same path, Breiz Atao launched itself into electoral operations. It is true that it could do this without contradicting its own principles, as was the case with the illogical Action française. In short, it put up a candidate in the elections for deputy for Guingamp, and the Directing Committee, under the influence of "leftist democratic" ideas, built thereupon a great number of illusions. In that electoral race the solidly financed parties disburse money, lies, alcohol, perfidies and disloyalties "de bonne guerre" so as to intoxicate the Popular Sovereign. In that vast pleasant and free fair the little voter that we call Quantity, but who is in fact Nullity, erases what's left of an already mediocre understanding, indifferent to everything that is not his own personal ease and immediate profit. We learnt at least that the democratic election is a milieu where reigns illusion, corruption, hypocrisy, bigmouths, moneybags, and agents well supported by the Bishop and the Government; a milieu that could not imagine producing a man who was sincere, poor or without the support of Paris, Rome, Moscow, New York or other places. We countenanced, it is true, the support of Berlin, but alas it was very much the case that we countenanced it for nothing. Our candidate, Goulven Mazéas, although a leftist and a merchant of potatoes from Guingamp, obtained no more than a few hundred votes.
Meanwhile, the purchase of the printery that demanded extended payments, based on a deal for which, I suppose, they had been had, as is usually the case with beginners dealing with old business weasels, was causing them grave financial worries. Beware of finance practices! Without fail they are mixed together, those who seek political success through the democratic path-the path of lies and corruption which transforms everything in an unseemly melee, to the great misfortune of the affair. The French State that we have known is a good example of this. But the greatest unhappiness is still the rebound shock felt by those who participated. Never adhere to the cult of the Golden Calf, even if this God possesses many seductions and its rites are more varied and surprising than they appear at first sight. One cannot continually handle money or bluff or any other thing, without some of it remaining stuck somewhere.
In short, this was the bankruptcy of the business-leftist direction of Breiz Atao, and as is always the case in such instances, it resulted in disagreement. Some of those of the Duhamelite tendency believed that a solution to the Breton question could not occur outside of a federalist solution for all of Europe; a solution which, imposing itself little by little within France, would finish by making the state recognise Breton issues as equal in law as any other national issues. These were the "federalists first", and they spoke the language of Equality, democracy, Progress, social justice, etc... all the leftist language that can be heard in similar milieux in France and elsewhere, from the Christian Democrats to the Communists. The others were the "nationalists first"; they believed that we must first of all look after the Breton state of affairs. If France and others wanted federalism, very well! But that was their business, and we could not distract the limited forces of Breton nationalism to this end. And if they didn't want federalism, we could not accept placing the question on the backburner to await their pleasure. If the occasion arose to impose a Breton federalist solution or not, accepted with goodwill or not, we would not be so silly as to let that opportunity pass. What's more, we knew that a solution of equality was all the same insufficient to halt the retreat of Breton in its current shabby state, to which it had been pushed by many centuries of Gallicisation. To re-establish a more suitable situation, it was necessary that the condition of Breton affairs be, not in equality, but in official and practical superiority to French concerns, in Lower Brittany at least.86 Without this superiority we could only continue to die slowly since all the "supposedly apolitical" attempts have shown what one can expect from the popular will in the linguistic domain and the political domain: if a few hundred cultivated people about whom we may speak of individually will learn or re-learn Breton on their own, there are tens and hundreds of thousands who will abandon it, mindlessly, and for whom the pressure from the French state, administration and culture is an argument of a practical nature, sufficiently convincing. For the Breton issue, it was therefore necessary to have a superiority or nothing. Our language became by necessity a language of dominators insufferable in good faith by all French without exception, a language that made us be treated as enemies, what modern language calls fascist. It is similar to the Middle Ages when each sought to associate the identity of his enemies with Satan. Today Satan is fascism. The words have changed but things are the same.
This dogmatic quarrel combined with the fear of having to assume the debts with which the different enterprises had saddled Breiz Atao, debts the responsibility for which one side sought to put onto the other but which, it is curious, no-one sought to affix to Duhamel, who vanished surreptitiously declaring that his federalist conscience did not allow him to approve of the nationalist venture, and commanded him to disengage his moral responsibility by yielding the field freely, as a good democrat, to the nationalist tendency desired by the majority. Thus without losing a penny he left, leaving Breiz Atao, its debts, the payment for the printery, the quarrel over federalism, etc., in the good care of his colleagues.87
Debauvais, although not having been the originator of all these cataclysms, accepted responsibility for everything, disavowed nothing and took the nationalist direction. I remember a congress, no doubt that of summer 1931, during which the Federalists who predominated in the sections of Rennes and Guingamp rolled out a diatribe against Debauvais and the nationalist direction, which prevailed in the sections of Paris and elsewhere. Tired of hearing these jeremiads, I quit the Congress and left the hall followed immediately by several others and finally by nearly all of the attendees; the quérémonieux88 had no more audience, and were not able to conduct a single vote. We gathered together afresh however, and after the rejection of many propositions-including one from Mordrel that we should put an end to Breiz Atao until better times, a proposal that received only one vote in addition to his own-it was agreed to adjourn the congress to Rennes. The same fruitless quarrels reigned in the house. It was there that I noticed Raymond Delaporte89 for the first time, who seemed to me quite pleasant. All the dogmatic clamour, complicated by an additional dissidence-that of Théo Jeusset's Breiz da Zont90-plus a backdrop of alarm over the debts, seemed to me pointless and without significance. I threw all my weight behind Debauvais, and with him Mordrel who also supported him, because I had confidence in the man that I knew, and I had enough experience to relegate to second place words, eloquence, dogmatic discussions and well-argued fine speakers of all types.
And I occupied myself with my guiding idea that had continued to grow since the congress of Saint-Brieuc.
Having finished his studies, Berthou had taken up a position in Provence. From there he entered into a fulsome correspondence, which quite surprised me. On my side I had recruited two of my proven colleagues from Paris, who recruited a third according to a system of sponsorship which maintained the secrecy of the business.91 But for his part Berthou had arranged with Théo Jeusset and all of Breiz da Zont to be enrolled as a bloc into the secret society that Berthou had baptised "Kentoc'h Mervel".92 I remarked to Berthou that it was quite illogical for an activist secret military society to be constituted by a political party officially publishing a journal, and leading a movement officially in concurrence with Breiz Atao. He tried to evade the question. This made me for the first time mistrustful of him. I refused to give him our names and our plans, so as to pledge us to Breiz da Zont. Despite my inexperience, it seemed to me obvious that these people had no idea of, nor vocation for, what was required of a secret society. Consequently it was a matter of urgency to break all relations with them before they learnt too much about us. Our trio arranged therefore to dissolve little by little our links to their side, and one fine day we declared that, for all sorts of reasons, we were quitting the risky domain of secret societies. This must have taken place during the course of the year '31. I don't know what became of Kentoc'h Mervel after that, except that it never grew beyond fancy words.
|Figure 7. Sous-lieutenant d'artillerie and clandestine head of Gwenn-ha-Du Célestin Lainé, 1931 ('Bezen Perrot archives'/Louis Feutren).|
Consequently, and in full accord with Debauvais, I allowed my connections with the leadership of Breiz Atao to fade little by little. The rupture was not to be abrupt. I remember having attended the linguistic session of the first summer school at St. Goazec and having been an examiner there during an examination that initiated a new intake of "Simbolistes". After this, things visibly abated. I appeared no longer at Breton Congresses, notably not that at Landerneau, which adopted the motions of our making; it was from Paris that the name of the Parti national breton93 had come, which could not invite any ambiguity.
In July '31 I finished at the école Centrale. Qualified as an Engineer of Arts and Manufactures, I passed again the obligatory military preparation exams, as a result of which I was ordered to undertake my military service in the French army in October 1931, as a second lieutenant at the Artillery School at Fontainebleu (Figure 7).(end of manuscript) 94
1 "Catholic and French forever..."
2 Duke (956-987) and later King of the Franks (987-996).
3 The red, white and blue tricolour of the French Republic.
4 Coastal town in the Breton region of Finistère. In Breton, Gwitalmeze.
5 Elaborate feminine lace headwear for which Brittany is renowned.
6 In French, Portsall, a seaside village near Ploudalmézeau.
7 French equivalent of senior high school. Henaff appears here to be suggesting that his entire schooling took place at the Lycée.
8 A French pejorative term for Germans. From the dialectical word caboche, meaning 'cabbage' or 'blockhead'.
9 An area west of Brest.
10 Literally "big horse" and "little horse".
11 The offices of the local newspaper, the Dépêche de Brest et de l'Ouest (1866-1944).
13 Berbers from France's North African colonies.
14 Société des Nations (League of Nations).
15 References both to the valorisation of Gaulish resistance to Roman imperialism that was fostered in France after the defeat at Prussian hands in 1870, and to the interpretation of the Breton language as a vestige of Gaulish rather than an import brought to Armorica by immigrant Britons. See Maryon McDonald, "We are not French!": Language, culture and identity in Brittany, (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 102.
16 The original is in English. Brezhoneg is Breton for the Breton language.
17 Tanguy Malmanche (1875-1953), Breton writer and dramatist; Jakez Riou (1899-1937), Breton author and contributor to the journal Gwalarn.
18 The penultimate class before graduation from a Lycée.
19 Reference to "la main d'Allemagne", or the hand of Germany, said to have directed various acts of espionage, sabotage, and treason against France.
20 'Brittany Forever', Breton nationalist journal active from 1919 to 1939.
21 Reference to the novel L'île du Solitaire by Maurice Champagne, 1924. See also Sébastien Carney, "Célestin Lainé et le breton: la langue pour le combat", La Bretagne linguistique, Vol. 16, Nov. 2011, pp. 151-197: p. 156; and Introduction, p. 45.
22 Adolphe François Marie Vallée, aka Fransez Vallée (1860-1949), Breton linguist and author, among other works, of Leçons élémentaires de grammaire bretonne (Elementary lessons in Breton grammar), published in 1902.
23 'Conversations in French and Breton', a work by L. Prud'homme published in 1857.
24 Equivalent to cum laude, given to grade point averages of 13 out of 20.
25 From "flotter", to float.
26 'Union of the Youth of Brittany'.
27 Youenn Drezen (1899-1972), Breton nationalist writer and activist.
28 'The Battle of Kergidu' by Lan Inizan (1826-91), published in two volumes in 1877 and 1878.
29 'Bards of Brittany' (1838), by Théodore Hersart de la Villemarqué (1815-95).
30 'History of our Brittany' (1922), written by Jeanne de Guerny (1892-1944) under the nom de plume C. Danio.
31 Born Louis-Paul Némo 1900, died Dublin, Ireland, 1978. Breton author, teacher and scholar, and founder of the journal Gwalarn.
32 Equivalent to magna cum laude, awarded to grade point averages of 15 out of 20.
33 First king to unite all Franks (509-511 AD).
34 In Breton Enez Eusa, a large island off the west coast of Brittany.
35 Léon is the westernmost of Brittany's nine historic provinces.
36 A reference to Bro Gozh Ma Zadoù, the Breton national hymn written by Taldir Jaffrennou in 1897 and based on the Welsh Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau of 1856.
37 Henaff uses the Breton spelling in place of the French Quimper.
38 In Breton Kernev, another of Brittany's nine historic provinces.
39 Breton bagpipes.
40 Dutch loanword meaning "church mass": a mass conducted on the anniversary of the founding of a church to honour its patron saint.
41 Fransez 'Fañch' Debauvais (1902-44), Breton nationalist political leader and editor of Breiz Atao.
42 Morvan Marchal (1900-63), Breton nationalist and designer of the Gwenn-ha-Du, the national flag of Brittany, in 1923.
43 'French Action', right-wing monarchist and integral nationalist journal and political movement most closely associated with Charles Maurras (1868-1952).
44 Bleun Brug, 'Heather Bloom', a Breton Catholic cultural association led by Abbé Yann-Vari Perrot.
45 'Patriotic Youths', a fascist-inspired group founded in 1924 dedicated to combating communism and led by Pierre Taittinger (1887-1965).
46 Reference to the career of General Georges Ernest Jean-Marie Boulanger (1837-91) and the reactionary, military-led politics with which he became associated.
47 Reference to Patrick Pearse (1879-1916) and the Irish nationalist Easter Rising of 1916.
48 Reference to the Irish Brigade raised by Roger Casement (1864-1916) in German prisoner-of-war camps during the First World War.
49 Reference to the Irish Commando of John MacBride (1868-1916) in Boer service during the South African War of 1899-1902.
50 Royalist uprising in the northwest of France against the French Revolution from 1794 to 1800.
51 Feminine personification of the French State and its values.
52 First Duke of Brittany (846-851 AD).
53 Also known as Gradlon Mawr or Urban, a legendary king of Brittany circa the 5th century AD.
54 Celtic goddess of the sun.
55 'Northwest', a Breton literary journal edited by Roparz Hemon from 1925 to 1944.
56 Yann Sohier (1901-35), Breton nationalist and language activist. On the left wing of the nationalist movement, he founded the journal Ar Falz ('The Sickle') from 1933.
57 In the turmoil that characterised politics in France between the world wars, parties deployed their strongest and fittest members to keep order at rallies and conventions. Opposing 'order services' frequently clashed.
58 'Breton Autonomist Party' in French and Breton respectively.
59 An early adherent to Breiz Atao and cousin to Olier Mordrel. He would be assassinated by the Resistance in September 1943.
60 Chouan (originally "the silent one", or "owl"). Reference to the Royalist counter-revolutionaries who opposed Republican forces in northwestern France. See note on the Chouannerie, p. 83.
61 From the Flemish term franskiljons or 'little French'. The term became established in Belgium as a pejorative for those Flemish who educated their children in French in order to achieve social advancement. The influence of Flemish activism upon Henaff is here apparent.
62 Bickler (1904-84) would become head of Section VI of the Reichsicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) at Paris during the German occupation, responsible for the recruitment of collaborators to combat the Resistance and Allied espionage. He evaded a sentence of death in absentia after the war and settled in the South Tyrol, a German-speaking region of northern Italy.
63 Literary works by Jakez Riou.
64 Léon Jasson 'Gouez' of the Bezen Perrot, executed by French firing squad in 1946.
65 Gwilherm Berthou (1908-51), Breton nationalist and later neo-Druidic bard.
66 Olier Mordrel (1901-85), Breton nationalist political leader, writer, author and architect.
67 Henaff here makes reference to Mordrel's role in the French fascist government-in-exile run by Jacques Doriot (1898-1945) in Germany towards the end of the war.
68 Henaff prefers the Alsatian spelling over the French Colmar.
69 Arthur Le Moyne de La Borderie (1827-1901), Breton historian.
70 These people are unnamed.
71 A naval term meaning a distance of 185 metres.
72 For more on the symbole and the stigmatisation of Breton-speaking children in French schools, see Jack E. Reece, The Bretons Against France: Ethnic Minority Nationalism in Twentieth-Century Brittany, (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1977), p. 32.
73 A town in the Kernev region (in French, Sainte-Anne-d'Auray), which holds an annual festival in honour of Saint Anne and is the principal destination of religious pilgrimage in Brittany.
74 Fañch Gourvil (1889-1984). Breton writer and specialist in Celtic literature. A longtime member of Breton nationalist parties, he quit the PNB in 1938 as it drifted towards fascism. Active in the Resistance during the Occupation, he is said to have been denounced to the Gestapo by Yann Bricler, and remained a fierce critic of nationalist accommodations with the German occupiers.
75 Camille Le Mercier d'Erm (1888-1978), Breton nationalist, poet and historian. Organised the first avowedly separatist Breton nationalist party in 1911, and edited its activist journal Breiz Dishual ('Free Brittany').
76 Maurice Duhamel (1884-1940), Breton composer, writer and champion of the federalist tendency within the Breton autonomist party.
77 The doctor referred to is Georges Ohsawa, creator of the macrobiotic diet. Born Yukikazu Sakurazawa in 1893, Ohsawa lived in Europe for several years before returning to Japan, where he was imprisoned for his pacifist ideals. Henaff became an ardent disciple of Ohsawa's teachings on the yin and yang of food, and contributed a chapter on the supposed dangers of Vitamin C to his book... But I Love Fruits! (1984).
78 Marcel Guieysse (1881-1967) and his daughter Denise. Breton nationalists later closely associated with the Bezen Perrot. Marcel was sentenced to five years' imprisonment after the war.
79 Armand Girard, one of the three earliest members to join Henaff's Gwenn-ha-Du (White and Black) in Paris in 1930.
80 Miklós Párdányi. The thesis was published in Hungary as A breton kérdés ('The Breton Question') in 1937.
81 Gerhard von Tevenar (1912-43), German specialist in Celtic political affairs. Von Tevenar undertook research trips to Celtic countries on behalf of the Abwehr, the intelligence service of the German military, and wrote numerous reports on Celtic nationalist movements. He became a close friend of Henaff's, as is suggested here by use (albeit misspelt) of his given name.
82 A Carré is a second-year student in elite French schools. First year students are known as Bizuths.
83 Marie-Louise Sjoestedt-Jonval (1900-40), French linguist and scholar of Celtic literature.
84 Jean-Marie Gantois (1904-1968), priest and Flemish nationalist, born at Watten in French Flanders. Gantois learned Flemish at seminary school and founded the Vlaamsch Verbond van Frankrijk (Flemish League of France), editing its journals Le Beffroi and De Torrewachter ('The Belltower' in French and Flemish respectively). He was later sentenced to five years' imprisonment for collaboration.
85 'Building society for the elevation of Brittany'.
86 Lower Brittany (Breizh Izel or Basse Bretagne) forms the western half of the peninsula, and is the region where Breton was traditionally spoken most widely. The eastern half, Upper Brittany (Breizh Uhel or Haute Bretagne), is the region in which French or the local Romance dialect Gallo was traditionally spoken.
87 Duhamel and Morvan Marchal founded the breakaway Ligue fédéraliste bretonne (Breton Federalist League) in 1931 as an alternative to the integral nationalism espoused by Debauvais and Mordrel.
88 Under the French Ancien régime, a quérémonie was an order issued by an ecclesiastic judge to summon an individual to court.
89 President of Bleun-Brug and later head of the PNB from December 1940.
90 'Brittany of the Future', journal of the tiny Parti nationaliste intégral breton or Breton Integral Nationalist Party. Its leader Théophile Jeusset (1910-68) linked Breton nationalism to overt anti-Semitism, and later formed an equally-tiny Breton national socialist party along Nazi lines during the German occupation.
91 This was the germ of Gwenn-ha-Du, and consisted of Fant Rozec 'Meavenn', Hervé 'Bob' Helloco, and Armand Girard (qv.).
92 After the historic Breton ducal motto Kentoc'h Mervel Eget Bezañ Saotret, or 'Sooner Death Than To Be Sullied'.
93 'Breton National Party' (PNB).
94 Annotations by Daniel Leach, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne. Translated from the French by Daniel Leach with Guillaume Legros, 2011.
Appendix A: Scanned Manuscript (pdf 17.7mb)
Appendix B: Poem "The Universe" (pdf 150kb)
Appendix C: Image Gallery (pdf 655kb)