Paris 68 and a world of today
Forgive the blatant self-promotion of this post, but I am very excited. Here is the front cover for my new novel to be published on 16th May. It has been described as “Carol Drinkwater’s epic story of enduring love and betrayal, from Paris in the sixties to the present day.”
I am delighted that it is to be published in May, although if I had been a little quicker with the research followed up by the writing, it would have been published last year, 2018, which was the fiftieth anniversary of Paris ’68.
Instead, we are 51 years on from that extraordinary spring. A spring that saw 6,000 students locked out from their Paris universities and taking to the streets, the entire country coming to a standstill due to 10 million striking workers who forced the closure of factories all across the land, transport at a standstill, and the flight of President de Gaulle albeit for just a couple of days before his return to clamp down and put an end to the voices of so many.
Today, historians see Paris ’68 as the jolt that pushed France into the twentieth century.
I was just beginning drama school in London in 1968. My interest in politics was, I must confess it, zilch. British politics seemed remote enough but French and world politics were far beyond my circles of interest. However, like many of my generation the War in Vietnam, American involvement in it, the burning of draft cards, had drawn my attention. If I were a student now and Paris was happening now, I would like to think that I would get involved.
Soyez realistes, demandez l’impossible. ‘Be realistic, ask for the impossible.’ This was daubed on the wall of one of the Paris bridges.
‘Run free, comrade, we’ve left the old world behind’. Scrawled across one of the walls of the Sorbonne buildings.
My novel is, after a fashion, my way of redressing that lack of interest on my part of fifty years ago.
Grace, my protagonist, is sixteen in 1968. She dreams of becoming an actress – which she achieves rather successfully – and is awaiting her studies at a London drama school. She decides to spend a few months in Paris. The city of cinema, of Truffaut, Godard, Jean Renoir, Jacques Tati, and many others. Jeanne Moreau, Fanny Ardant, such actresses are her idols. On her first day in Paris, she meets a young English student who is studying at the Sorbonne, Peter. Peter is far more politically aware and active than the young Grace and he draws her into his world. She becomes involved in the demonstrations which lead to civil unrest. She fights along with the students, building barricades and spending late nights in cafés and bistros where for the first time in her life she is presented with choices. How to live? What are her values? What is worth fighting for? Freedom of speech, independence, the sexual revolution. Women’s rights. A generation in revolt…