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Remembering Bastille

Alliance Francaise celebrated the French Revolution with verve at the Soiree Lecture

A poster display of the important events and people — Photo: Mohd. Yousuf

THE FRENCH Revolution, which immediately brings to mind the cold swoosh of the Guillotine, the storming of the Bastille, the Reign of Terror and Le Marseillaise not to mention The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Tale of Two Cities came alive at the Soiree Lecture at the Alliance Francaise.

The foyer was decorated with posters depicting the key people and events of Revolution. La Brise de la Bastille (The Storming of Bastille), Auz Armies Citoyens (all the key figures of the Revolution - Danton, David, Saint-Just, Des Moulins, Marat and Robespierre) and Objets et Costumes with pictures of the dreaded Guillotine, the revolutionary calendar as well as the clothes of the nobility and the peasants were a visual representation of the era.

The words of George Jacques Danton (1759 - 1794), one of the key people of the Revolution, were also put up. The power of lines like "Had there been no people with burning desires, Had they not been violent enough, There wouldn't have been any revolution," to rouse the populace comes through even after these many years.

Living history

Members of the Alliance read out passages pertaining to the Revolution. Director Christophe Faucher gave the introductory talk. There were passages read out from Histoire et Dictionnaire de La Revolution Francaise and La Revolution Francaise Au Jour Le Jour. Students took on the role of the key players in the Revolution including Guillotine, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, and Danton and read out a few lines about them. Alban training at the Alliance, spoke of the storming of Bastille on July 14, 1789, which marks the first popular step of the Revolution. Earlier the revolt had been confined to the courts with laws and amendments.

The Bastille, a medieval fortress contrary to popular belief, had only seven prisoners. The freeing of the prisoners, none of who were incarcerated for political ends, signalled a dramatic entry for the worker on to the revolutionary stage.

"When King Louis told the Army to train the cannons on the starving people in the courtyard, the people reacted with anger and demanded the cannons be moved," Alban explained to the rapt audience.

Songs of the Revolution

La Carmagnole, a popular song during the Revolution, heaps scorn on King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette calling them Monsieur and Madame Veto - a take off on their power to veto all legislations. The song was rendered with verve with the gathering joining in the catchy refrain.

Le Marseillaise, the song composed by Joseph Rouget de Lisle, became the anthem of the Revolution. Sung by soldiers from the French port of Marseillaise, the song is now the French National anthem, an anomaly for Paris-centric France. Instead of singing it, Le Marseillaise was read out with instructions to regard it as a poem.

It was an evening that saluted the spirit of "Equality, Liberty and Fraternity," the key words of the Revolution.


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