Pipe-Smoking in Occupied France

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odobenus

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Dec 15, 2018
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Came across this fine thing today. If nothing else, check out the second journal entry. I love stories about tobacco scarcity and rationing, particularly during polar expeditions. This is another dire angle. Here's the excerpt, as printed in Harper's:

'Killing Time'
By Jean Giono
From Occupation Journal, a diary that Giono kept during the Nazi occupation of France, which was published last month by Archipelago Books. Translated from the French by Jody Gladding.
Tuesday, August 8
Wonderful shop signs. The cabinetmaker who had already posted on his door, coffins, reduced prices, has added something splendid: blinds repaired. In Paris, near the East station, I noticed, rendez-vous with gas (at a bistro). In Marseille, this epitome of the comical: Hôtel De la Pompadour et Du New-Vichy.
Alert yesterday (it lasted three hours). Alert today.
I am organizing my solitude.
Sunday, August 13
Three or four alerts yesterday. Today, two alerts already before noon. But no noise in the sky, not a single plane. We end up no longer paying attention to the siren and no one can say anymore whether the alert is beginning or ending. Opulent heat these days and dazzling light. A terrible peace. They say the Americans are at Rambouillet.
To smoke, I’m going directly to the garden to pick green tobacco leaves that I roast in the oven and then crush in my hands before filling my pipe. The smoke is overwhelming, bitter, strong, and immediately produces a kind of sickening vertigo. It makes your head swim. From time to time, Charles prepares for me a few grams of real tobacco with leaves that he cures with saltpeter and boiling water. Then I can smoke a few very good pipefuls, but I give so much away to all my friends that I quickly run out of it.
Read the famous Judas by Rabinovitch, which he worked on for two years, and it’s thirty-eight pages long. One thinks to oneself: thirty-eight pages, two years of work! Rabi is intelligent; this must be good. No. It’s bad. It’s not of the same order or measure. It’s constipated. No interest whatsoever, neither human nor general. Small rage lacking grandeur.
I pass judgment—I’m getting old!
Wednesday, August 16
Second day of bombing here. Since Monday evening I haven’t been able to write. Four in a car killed by machine gun in Saint-Clément, my neighbor Léonce Amalric among them, pierced by bullets.
Today they tried to demolish the bridge over the Durance with huge bombs that shook us four kilometers away. We’ve finished the shelter in the garden. My mother is holding up. We are waiting. No sleep last night. I’m sheltering a young cleaning woman with a little girl in the small house, a survivor from Toulon, very frightened. Wonderful weather. I went up to my office after lunch to write these few lines to regain my footing after the crazy upheavals of yesterday afternoon and a sleepless night; I am very sleepy. Played card games with André and Marcel. Everything is purely a question of luck.
Thursday, August 17
The time will come for the “joli Jésuite with a little moist spot.” (Thomas Mann.)
Fairly calm night. We slept. Early in the morning planes returned and dived over Saint-Tulles. Bombs fell near Corbières. After noon again four planes circling over the same spot and more big bombs dropped there. I don’t see what the target can be. Huge fire near Valensole after the bombs dropped. Apart from dropping bombs, planes are machine-gunning the roads, a little randomly it seems. In short, at least so far, a calmer day than the last few, a calmer night.
A thunderstorm—a simple thunderstorm, enormous—arriving from the south.
All contact with Manosque has been cut off. We have only our neighbors. We’re together more and more. Small patriarchal clusters are forming from house to house. The town is silent, still, all the stores closed except from six to eight in the morning.
The storm broke about six o’clock. It’s not raining. But this dry thunderstorm is making more noise than the bombs.
There are fourteen dead at Vinon. The day before yesterday, we saw our four usual planes that dive over and drop big bombs. Now we’re used to these four planes returning periodically to bomb us.
And fundamentally, what purpose does all this serve?
Tuesday, when I was hiding under my olive tree, on the road along the pass, and when the plane with its machine gun was searching for me, circling like a bird of prey, what beneficial work was accomplished? What could that little cyclist, who had tossed aside his bike and run to take cover, truly represent? This wasn’t the joli Jésuite, it was the anthropoid. Ah, how convenient it is to consecrate the halberds on the altar of the fatherland—what a black liberty that provides.
Saturday, August 19
Yesterday, which I thought would be calm, was the most dangerous yet. At noon you could feel the fever in the air, then, at twelve-thirty, eight planes flying right over the rooftops, directly above the house, dived and fired machine guns, and then for the first time we could hear the hiss of bombs. This time it was very close. In no time the house has become like a refugee camp; Marcel and André arriving with their wives; then later, Blavette and his wife. Quite distraught despite a bit of bragging. They’d gone for lunch to Mathieu’s in the Prés neighborhood, a hundred meters from the station. The planes dived toward them and fired machine guns. They dropped the tomato salad they’d made and threw themselves on the ground. We spent the afternoon together, playing chess, cards, reading, smoking our horrible tobacco. Despite a few alerts for planes passing over, the rest of the afternoon was calm. At about eight o’clock Blavette set out to leave, his wife broke down, and I suggested they sleep here. They agreed, happily. Blavette headed back to their house, on the other side of town, just to bring in the laundry and put away the leftovers of a mutton stew. But he returned shortly without having gone home, saying that the Americans are in Valensole (twenty kilometers away) and that he saw (he repeated he saw) a pack of Camel cigarettes in the hands of a gendarme.
The night was calm; nothing but two or three low planes passing over.
This morning the French flag was flying from the top of the steeple, and the Americans are in Sisteron, La Brillanne, and Oraison.
We are liberated.
 

BlueMaxx

Member
Feb 7, 2020
258
600
Indiana
Came across this fine thing today. If nothing else, check out the second journal entry. I love stories about tobacco scarcity and rationing, particularly during polar expeditions. This is another dire angle. Here's the excerpt, as printed in Harper's:

'Killing Time'
By Jean Giono
From Occupation Journal, a diary that Giono kept during the Nazi occupation of France, which was published last month by Archipelago Books. Translated from the French by Jody Gladding.
Tuesday, August 8
Wonderful shop signs. The cabinetmaker who had already posted on his door, coffins, reduced prices, has added something splendid: blinds repaired. In Paris, near the East station, I noticed, rendez-vous with gas (at a bistro). In Marseille, this epitome of the comical: Hôtel De la Pompadour et Du New-Vichy.
Alert yesterday (it lasted three hours). Alert today.
I am organizing my solitude.
Sunday, August 13
Three or four alerts yesterday. Today, two alerts already before noon. But no noise in the sky, not a single plane. We end up no longer paying attention to the siren and no one can say anymore whether the alert is beginning or ending. Opulent heat these days and dazzling light. A terrible peace. They say the Americans are at Rambouillet.
To smoke, I’m going directly to the garden to pick green tobacco leaves that I roast in the oven and then crush in my hands before filling my pipe. The smoke is overwhelming, bitter, strong, and immediately produces a kind of sickening vertigo. It makes your head swim. From time to time, Charles prepares for me a few grams of real tobacco with leaves that he cures with saltpeter and boiling water. Then I can smoke a few very good pipefuls, but I give so much away to all my friends that I quickly run out of it.
Read the famous Judas by Rabinovitch, which he worked on for two years, and it’s thirty-eight pages long. One thinks to oneself: thirty-eight pages, two years of work! Rabi is intelligent; this must be good. No. It’s bad. It’s not of the same order or measure. It’s constipated. No interest whatsoever, neither human nor general. Small rage lacking grandeur.
I pass judgment—I’m getting old!
Wednesday, August 16
Second day of bombing here. Since Monday evening I haven’t been able to write. Four in a car killed by machine gun in Saint-Clément, my neighbor Léonce Amalric among them, pierced by bullets.
Today they tried to demolish the bridge over the Durance with huge bombs that shook us four kilometers away. We’ve finished the shelter in the garden. My mother is holding up. We are waiting. No sleep last night. I’m sheltering a young cleaning woman with a little girl in the small house, a survivor from Toulon, very frightened. Wonderful weather. I went up to my office after lunch to write these few lines to regain my footing after the crazy upheavals of yesterday afternoon and a sleepless night; I am very sleepy. Played card games with André and Marcel. Everything is purely a question of luck.
Thursday, August 17
The time will come for the “joli Jésuite with a little moist spot.” (Thomas Mann.)
Fairly calm night. We slept. Early in the morning planes returned and dived over Saint-Tulles. Bombs fell near Corbières. After noon again four planes circling over the same spot and more big bombs dropped there. I don’t see what the target can be. Huge fire near Valensole after the bombs dropped. Apart from dropping bombs, planes are machine-gunning the roads, a little randomly it seems. In short, at least so far, a calmer day than the last few, a calmer night.
A thunderstorm—a simple thunderstorm, enormous—arriving from the south.
All contact with Manosque has been cut off. We have only our neighbors. We’re together more and more. Small patriarchal clusters are forming from house to house. The town is silent, still, all the stores closed except from six to eight in the morning.
The storm broke about six o’clock. It’s not raining. But this dry thunderstorm is making more noise than the bombs.
There are fourteen dead at Vinon. The day before yesterday, we saw our four usual planes that dive over and drop big bombs. Now we’re used to these four planes returning periodically to bomb us.
And fundamentally, what purpose does all this serve?
Tuesday, when I was hiding under my olive tree, on the road along the pass, and when the plane with its machine gun was searching for me, circling like a bird of prey, what beneficial work was accomplished? What could that little cyclist, who had tossed aside his bike and run to take cover, truly represent? This wasn’t the joli Jésuite, it was the anthropoid. Ah, how convenient it is to consecrate the halberds on the altar of the fatherland—what a black liberty that provides.
Saturday, August 19
Yesterday, which I thought would be calm, was the most dangerous yet. At noon you could feel the fever in the air, then, at twelve-thirty, eight planes flying right over the rooftops, directly above the house, dived and fired machine guns, and then for the first time we could hear the hiss of bombs. This time it was very close. In no time the house has become like a refugee camp; Marcel and André arriving with their wives; then later, Blavette and his wife. Quite distraught despite a bit of bragging. They’d gone for lunch to Mathieu’s in the Prés neighborhood, a hundred meters from the station. The planes dived toward them and fired machine guns. They dropped the tomato salad they’d made and threw themselves on the ground. We spent the afternoon together, playing chess, cards, reading, smoking our horrible tobacco. Despite a few alerts for planes passing over, the rest of the afternoon was calm. At about eight o’clock Blavette set out to leave, his wife broke down, and I suggested they sleep here. They agreed, happily. Blavette headed back to their house, on the other side of town, just to bring in the laundry and put away the leftovers of a mutton stew. But he returned shortly without having gone home, saying that the Americans are in Valensole (twenty kilometers away) and that he saw (he repeated he saw) a pack of Camel cigarettes in the hands of a gendarme.
The night was calm; nothing but two or three low planes passing over.
This morning the French flag was flying from the top of the steeple, and the Americans are in Sisteron, La Brillanne, and Oraison.
We are liberated.



If you like history books, this one being set in WWII I highly recommend this one...it is a true story.
Also there is actually some old footage at one of the saddest parts you can see on YT.

It is a great story, real and shows both the horror of war and the redemption one can find, be it many years later.

M
 

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danimalia

Preferred Member
Sep 2, 2015
2,441
8,425
38
San Francisco Bay Area, USA
That was a cruel time.
I was certainly struck by the cruelty of the situation and that line about everything being a question of luck really reinforces that idea. I was reading this Concentration Camp Dictionary the other day and it's also bleak and sad, but a fascinating window into the lives of people forced into an unimaginable situation
 

davek

Preferred Member
Mar 20, 2014
609
698
"Charles prepares for me a few grams of real tobacco with leaves that he cures with saltpeter and boiling water."

This is interesting...I wonder what that process looked like.

Thanks for posting!!
People have used saltpeter to increase combustibility in tobacco I have read.

As to boiling water, boiling tobacco will reduce the rank taste of uncured tobacco. I have tried this myself as well as read of others doing it. It eliminates the rankness, but also changes the taste. I wouldn't say it tastes like sh*t after boiling, but I wouldn't say it tastes real good either. I tried it once and never again, if that tells you anything.

I would probably do it to have something "smokeable" fast in a desperate situation, though.

Just a couple possibilities. I don't really know.
 

docpierce

Senior Member
Feb 17, 2020
483
1,366
I was certainly struck by the cruelty of the situation and that line about everything being a question of luck really reinforces that idea. I was reading this Concentration Camp Dictionary the other day and it's also bleak and sad, but a fascinating window into the lives of people forced into an unimaginable situation
This just in:
The internment of Japanese Americans was ordered by FDR. During World War II, the forced relocation and incarceration in concentration camps of about 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry.

..and this:
14 million people were imprisoned in Soviet Gulag labor camps from. Mass arrests caused another increase in inmate numbers. Hundreds of thousands of persons were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms.

also: Concentration camps which were operated by the British in South Africa during the Second Anglo-Boer War. Civilian families who had been forced to abandon their homes for any reason which was related to the war. An epidemic killed thousands due to the dire conditions within the camps.

This was a fairly common response to internal threats by Governments at that time.

Dark days indeed.
 
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BlueMaxx

Member
Feb 7, 2020
258
600
Indiana
My current read...if your a history buff, especially on WWI era and those daring you men in their flying machines you should give it a read....I have known about the book for quite some time but just had not gotten around to it. Quarantine has afforded me the time. I found this copy on fleabay delivered for $4.87....and it looks like it wasn't even read, the spine is not even broken.

IMG_1977.jpeg

Also picked up this brand new, two volume still in packaging for twelve bucks delivered....


Quarantine sucks, unless your a hopeless book reading pipe smoking hermit....

s-l1600 (1).jpeg


s-l1600 (2).jpeg
 
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