Siegfried and Limousin
The narrative is conducted on behalf of the narrator, whose name is Jean. In January 1922, he looks through German newspapers to find at least one kind word about France, and suddenly stumbles upon an article signed with the initials of “ZFK”, where the words from his friend Forestier’s story are almost verbatim during the war. To Jean’s amazement, in the subsequent opuses the impudent plagiarist contrived to borrow something from the unpublished heritage of Forestier.
The riddle seems to be insoluble, but then fate herself sends Jean von von Celten. Once Jean loved Zototen as much as Germany. Now this country does not exist for him, but sometimes he feels the bitterness of loss. In his time, Celentin came up with a funny game, offering to share the disputed territories in the highest moments of friendship and love. As a result, Zelten gave his friend all of Alsace, but Jean held firmly and tore from France only one insignificant district in the moment when Zeloten was particularly like a naive, good-natured German. At the meeting, Celten admitted that he had fought four years in order to return his gift. On his hand a deep scar is visible – before Jean could not see the healed trail from the French bullet. Celenten remained alive – perhaps, a grain of love for Germany is still capable of reborn.
After listening to Jean’s story about the mysterious plagiarist, Tzeden promises
Jean leaves for Bavaria with a fake Canadian passport. When he gets out of the train, his heart becomes heavy – here, even from the wind and the sun, Germany wipes out. In this country, the eyebrows of the apostles are frowned, and the Mother of God has knotted hands and pendulous breasts. In the eyes ripples from artificial empty advertising. Equally monstrous and unnatural is the villa “Siegfried” – its decrepitude is hidden by whitewashing. The Germans reproach the French for their fondness for blush, and make up their own buildings. A person who went into a dark garden, there are all the indisputable signs of a German citizen – glasses in a fake tortoise frame, a gold tooth, a pointed beard. But Jean immediately learns Forestier – what a sad transformation!
Jean settles in a room whose windows face the villa. Before meeting a friend, he goes by tram to Munich and wanders around the city with a sense of superiority, as befits a winner. Once he was here his own man, but he could not return the past: from the former happy days there was only Ida Eilert – at one time Jean loved three of her sisters. Ida brings news: everyone here is afraid of a conspiracy led by Zeloten. Jean believes that there is nothing to be afraid of: Zeloten always timed important events by June 2, his birthday, and the plan for this year is already compiled – Celten decided to heal his teeth and begin a book about the East and West.
In the house of Siegfried Jean introduces an old acquaintance – Prince Henry, heir of the Saxe-Altdorf throne was born on the same day with the German emperor and studied with him: the boys always quarreled in English lessons and put up with French lessons. The prince far surpasses the nobility of his miserable cousin – it is enough to compare their wives and children. The fervent and brave offspring of Prince Henry formed an entire air fleet – now they are all killed or mutilated.
Jean watches from the windows about how Siegfried dresses: Forestier always liked white linen, and now on it a lilac sweatshirt and pink underpants – the same were under the uniforms of wounded Prussians. You can not endure this: you need to steal Forestier from the keepers of the gold of the Rhine – this alloy of German naivety, splendor and gentleness. Ida brings a circular from the German headquarters about training the soldiers who lost their memory: they were supposed to put a blond-haired blonde with ruddy cheeks to them – the ideal of German beauty. From the house Forestier there is a woman corresponding to all the parameters of the circular. She holds a bunch of roses in her hands, and Forestier looks after her like a lunatic.
On the recommendation of Prince Henry, Jean penetrates to Siegfried as a teacher of French. At home, he notices the same depressing changes as in clothes: before Forestest’s apartment was littered with delicious knick-knacks, and now the heavy-weight sayings of the German sages are hung. The lesson begins with the simplest phrases, and on farewell Siegfried asks to send him samples of French works. The first of them, Jean gives the title “Solignac” and describes in detail the chapel, the cathedral, the cemetery, the stream, the gentle rustling of the poplars of Limousin, the province where both friends were born.
Zhelten acquaints Jean with the nurse Kleist. However, fifteen years ago Jean had already seen Eva von Schwanghofer in her father’s house – a tearful novelist, a favorite of German housewives. And Celentine tells Eve about her first meeting with Jean: before eighteen he suffered from bone tuberculosis, grew up among the elders and all the people represented decrepit, but at the carnival in Munich he suddenly had an eighteen-year-old face with snow-white teeth and shining eyes – from that time on the Frenchman became for him the embodiment of youth and the joy of life.
After the second session, Jean dreams a dream, as if he turned into a German, and Kleist became a Frenchman: darkness and heaviness gather around Jean-Germans, while the French-Kleist gets light air in his eyes. Then to Jean is Eve, who made the necessary research: in vain, Jean covered with a Canadian passport – in fact, he is a native of Limousin. Eve demands to leave Kleist alone: she will not allow his return to the hated France. In response, Jean says that he does not harbor anger toward despicable Germany: the archangels, giving France victory, robbed her of the right to hate. Let German girls pray for sons who would avenge France, but French students studying German are called to a great mission – to educate the vanquished.
In Munich comes Genevieve Prat, the former lover Forestier. The three of them go to Berlin, where they are overtaken by Eve. The struggle for Kleist continues: Eva tries to provoke hatred for the French with a tendentious selection of newspaper clippings, while Jean in his next composition reminds the Friend of the greatest Limousin poet Bertrand de Borne. At the celebrations in honor of Goethe, Jean recalls the January anniversary of Moliere: if the first resemble a melancholy spiritistic session, the second was a sparkling holiday of life. The abomination of Berlin inspires Kleist disgust, and the whole company moves to Sassnitz – that is where the hospital is located, where Forestier was made a German. Jean watches Eva and Genevieve: a monumental German beauty can not stand any comparison with the graceful and natural Frenchwoman. Genevieve has the gift of genuine compassion – she heals human sorrows with one of her presence. Kleist rushes between two women, not understanding their longing. In fact, he must choose a country.
A serene break is interrupted by turbulent events: a revolution took place in Munich, and Count von Totten declared himself dictator. Renting a car, the company goes to Bavaria: they are allowed to pass freely, for citizen ZFK received an invitation to enter the new government. In Munich, it turns out that Zeloten seized power on his birthday. Jean, in a misunderstanding, ends up in jail: he is released after four days, when Zeloten renounces the throne. The former dictator declares publicly that Kleist is not a German at all. Shocked Siegfried takes refuge in the villa Schwangoffers. He reads messages from different countries, and he tries to guess his unknown homeland. The last blow is for him the death of the fragile Genevieve, who sacrificed health and life to open his eyes. At night Jean and Siegfried get on the train. Forgotten by a heavy sleep, Kleist mumbles something in German, but Jean answers him only in French. Time runs fast – it’s over the windows that France wakes up. Now Jean will slap a friend on the shoulder and show him a photo of thirty years ago, signed by his real name.