Friday, October 14, 2016

Now That Was a Funeral!

"Paris Was Yesterday - 1925-1939"  by Janet Flanner   Popular Library   232 pages   $1.25 1972 edition, paperback

Flanner was a young wanna-be writer in Paris when the New Yorker magazine hired her to write a column called "Letter From Paris."  It was a roaring success; soon she knew everyone of importance in the arts in Paris.  She has a great style, drily witty and a joy to read.  To entice  you into reading the book, here is her account of the funeral of Marshall Foch, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Armies in France during the last year of the war. 

Marshall Foch, 1851 - 1929

When the catafalque was exposed beneath the Arc de Triomphe, children who had been up all night in trains were held shoulder-high to view the bier.  In the jam, orphan girls, tied to each other by a rope whose end was around the waist of an anxious nun, were pulled up and down the curb like Alpine climbers. 

Taxis and Rolls circled in an endless gyrating ring around the Etoile, whole families seated on the hoods.  Seven thousand mourners an hour passed the bier.  Before dusk, 2 million were packed for blocks along the side streets and helplessly broke the police barrage, being swept past without seeing anything but their own fright.

It was  estimated that 3 million people saw the procession, but only a fraction could have done it comfortably, well or even at all.  Windows in the Rue de Rivoli rented at 5,000 francs.  A perch on a lamppost cost 50.  Men swarmed in trees, on roofs and sat on chimney pots.  (Ed. note - presumably for free)

For the most part, women saw the Marshall's caisson by turning their backs to it while looking into mirrors held aloft. 

At his house and at the Cathedral, while thousands waited to pay him homage, the lines were closed from 12 noon to 2 p.m. - in deference to that unflinching French tradition - luncheon - which apparently even death does not alter."

That was what any sane person would describe as a "funeral, by God" while smacking their lips.

Hold on there - it can't compare with the attendance at one C. N. Annadurai, of Chennai, India's funeral.  He drew a reported 15 million mourners.  Take that, Paris. 

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