PARIS. The other night l went to a gala given in one of the theatres of Paris in aid of a Polish regiment that is being formed. There was one of +he best conjurors I have ever seen. He ate quantities and quantities of cotton wool until the audience felt utterly sick, and then— as if to show there was no trickery— he drank a bowlful of water, washing it all down. Then, when he let out a deep breath, thick smoke came from his mouth and floated up to the ceiling.
After that he carefully unthreaded a. necklace, put the beads into his mouth (on top of everything else), put the string into his mouth, and then pulled out the necklace re-threaded! But even more astonishing was the way he held out to us with his bare arms a copy of the evening paper Paris-Soir. Systematically and indubitably he proceeded to tear this into strips, which he then squeezed together in both his hands. Then he spread out the paper again and there was the Paris-Boir intact. were also several singers, French and English, who had just come from entertaining the Forces. Annette Mills was there. and she sang " Boompsa-Daisy," which has been appropriated by the French as a war-song, as well as the "Lambeth Walk " and the one about the washing on the Siegfried line. At the end both " God Save the King " and the Marseillaise were sung. It was altogether very Franco-British.
The French and the English
Of course there is great interest in all English things in France at the moment. There are many translations of English books in the bookshop windows, notably Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. I was asked whether the English were as Franco-phil as the French are Anglo-phil at the moment— from the point of view of literature and the arts. I said I thought so certainly, and that de Montherlant and Jules Romaine were both best-sellers in England when I left. There is one blind spot, however, between the two countries, and that is concerning their attitude to the war—or rather the enemy. To the French the enemy is the eternal Boche (whether led by Bismarck or the Kaiser or Hitler), and they cannot understand the English feeling that this is something new and that we aren't fighting Germany but Nazism, etc., etc.
There is a lot of talk about that longed-for tunnel under the Channel.
The other day I met a French officer, de la Tour du Pin. He is a cousin of the young Catholic poet Patrice de la Tour du Pin. Patrice has been a prisoner since the very beginning of the war, but he seems to be getting along very well, and his cousin sends him chocolate. Patrice wrote an admirable book on poetry in the modern world for that series Prosencee, edited by M. Daniel-Rops. I am not sure, but I think that this series has stopped with the war, though publishing on the whole is not so badly hit here as it is in England, as so far there is no paper rationing.
Daniel-Rops, I gather, is evacuated to Bordeaux with the school at which he teaches.
The whole rationing system is different in France from In England. There are no ration cards; but on certain days you can't procure certain commodities. For example, Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday are meatless days; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are liquorless days (I mean there are no aperitifs or liqueurs); and then other days are cakeless days. Apparently Sunday is the one day when you can have everything.
The children have not yet returned to Paris to the extent to which the evacuated children in England have returned to London. The Luxembourg gardens are quite empty and rather mournful. The merry-go-rounds and rocking-horses are never set in motion; and there is no one selling balloons.
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While here I have just glanced at a novel about the J.O.C. by Maxence van der Meersch. This could easily be rather tiresome and priggish—especially as its title is Pecheurs d'Hommeg (Fishers of Men)—but actually it is very good and contains some excellent descriptions of conditions of work, not only in factories but also in the small shop—where the shop proprietor is a pillar of the parish on Sundays while sweating his employees and overcharging his customers during the week, The revolt of some young Jocistes against the tyranny of never being able to sit in the labelled front seats at Mass —even early Mass when they are empty —is very well described. It all takes place in Roubaix, near Lille.