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Gallant in Paris

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From Mavis Gallant’s Paris Notebooks:

10 May 1968. The bridges are guarded by CRS (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité)… They must know they are hated now. They may wonder why. One fastening the other’s helmet chin strap, as if going to a party. I mistake their grenade throwers for guns, and I think: if they have these guns they must intend to use them. Place Saint-Michel. I am part of a stupid, respectable-looking small crowd staring – just dumbly staring – at the spectacle of massed power on the bridge. Up the Boul’ Mich’. Crowds, feeling of tension… Side streets leading to Sorbonne and Latin Quarter blocked by more police, and I have that feeling of helpless anger I had earlier today. The Sorbonne is empty, and it is kept empty by a lot of ignorant gumshoes. The last stand of the illiterate. Difference between now and early afternoon is that the students are back from their mass meeting in Denfert-Rochereau and – shifting, excited, sullen, angry, determined – they want to get by those large, armed men and back to their Latin Quarter. Electric, uneasy, but oddly gay. Yes, it is like a holiday in a village, with the whole town out on the square.

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