Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be
_Nostalgia Isn't What It Used to Be_ by Simone Signoret
NY: Penguin Books, 1978
(31) At about that time [1933-34], she noticed one day that a toothbrush she had just bought herself said “made in Japan.” We returned to the store and there faced the owner, who wore a Basque beret and was probably a Croix de Feu militant [French neo-fascist movement]. Very politely, my mother said, “I would like to exchange this toothbrush. You see, it’s made in Japan.” “So?” “Well, you see, monsieur, the Japanese have just signed an agreement with the Germans and Italians so any Japanese merchandise, even a little toothbrush, becomes armaments for Japan, Italy, and Germany. Fascist countries.” I wished the ground would open and swallow me up. The man replied, “So you want a French toothbrush, is that it?” “No, I’m not a chauvinist. No, all I want is a toothbrush that is not German, Italian or Japanese.’ We went home with a toothbrush that was made in England. My mother considered her day to have been well spent, and today I agree with her. But at twelve or thirteen one gets terribly embarrassed.
(94) So that was the end of that. It has taken a long time to tell it all, 1940-44. It seemed like twenty years.
That was the end of it for us. But it wasn’t finished for those who were in the camps. And it wasn’t finished for the soldiers. And it was just beginning for the collaborators. And it had been finished a long time for those who had died.
(141) Autheuil was bought with the sous earned by an artisan who exploits himself by producing only the things he likes.
(151) [Instead of reading Ethel Rosenberg’s Deathhouse Letters at a movement gala] I would go and read a very beautiful letter by Émile Zola, which Roger Pigaud suggested to me. It was called Lettre á la Jeunesse, and it has been enormously useful to me every time I get invovled in this sort of event.
(165) … as Gramschi had written, “Only the truth is revolutionary…”
(204) Montand on following their consciences: “From now on we’re going to be on bad terms with everybody - but on what good terms we’ll be with ourselves!”
(245) She had something to tell us. She said it very fast and very low. Did we know [Louis] Aragon? Would we be seeing him? And how! Well we must give him a message. A friend of his, a young Hungarian poet, was in prison along with a number of other writers, since January. Neither she, who was his ex-wife, nor his present wife had been able to obtain the slightest information concerning his fate. A letter had already been sent to Aragon a month and a half ago. Aragon knew Tibor very well. Elsa did too. Tibor had joined the banned French Communist party during the war, in 1942, in France, where had been a political refugee since 1938. Aragon must do somethign to help; he knew that Tibor had never been a fascist. I promised her I would deliver the message. I did not promise her that Aragon would do anything. She gave me a long look, in silence, and then she took both my hands and said, “Well, then, ask him not to sleep for one night.” I wrote down the name Tibor Tardos.
(316) One never really knows anything about the true guilt or innocence of the people whose part one takes. Most of the time, one takes a stand against people who think they have a right to take a stand against the accused. And they have none.
(337) She [Marilyn Monroe] made me tell her my stories, which were neither more nor less original, comic, or emotional than any actress’s stories in any country in the world. Basically they’re stories of marvelous complicity, the kind childen have in their early school years.
(353) The people I worked with never ate in a restaurant where there wasn’t a portrait of Kennedy. However, one day I strayed into a pseudo cheap dive; there on the table stood a minute porcelain bust of Kennedy. It was a salt cellar, with holes in the precise spots where the bullets - fired by whom? - had penetrated his head.
(373) Does one act better after one has aged?
Well, one doesn’t act better: One doesn’t act anymore. One is. The compliments you get from people who speak about “the courage to show oneself in an unflattering aspect” are just pious remarks. It isn’t courage; it’s a form of pride, possibly vanity, to show yourself as you really are in order to better serve the character that has been offered to you as a gift.
(442) I’ve never thought that any couple was safe from a possible separation. I’ve never had that kind of certainty. I’ve always been wildly astonished, every day, that things go on.
We’re just the same age, Montand and I. He’s lived beside me while I aged, and I’ve lived beside him while he matured. That’s one of the differences between men and women. _They_ mature; their white hair is called “silvery temples,” the lines on their faces are “chiseled,”….
(449-450) But one’s recollections are never entirely shared. When one puts them to the test of a confrontation, it’s often as helpless as a witness for the defense who says in all good faith that the dress was blue when it was green.
It was green for me.
It was colorless for another.
It was blue for a third person.
All of us liked one another. We didn’t see the same things. Or rather we saw the same things together at the same moment, and we saw them differently.
When one tells a story one usurps the memory of others. Because of the simple fact that they were there, one has stolen their memories, their recollections, their nostalgia, their truths.
When I said “we,” I took possession. But that was to tell the tale. My memory or my nostalgia have made me weave threads. Not forge chains.