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(en) France, UCL AL #314 - Commune: Culture. Story, Read: Alix Payen, "It is especially at night that the fight becomes furious: an ambulance worker from the Municipality, 1871" (ca, de, it, fr, pt)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 24 Apr 2021 10:28:14 +0300

At the heart of the battles of the town. ---- If you are hoping for a political reflection text, it will not make you happy, but you would miss something by ignoring this book of just over a hundred pages ! History is also the result of the little words of everyday life that weave the epistolary exchanges ... ---- Here, among the crowd of publications which deal with the history of the Commune published by Libertalia, a curious little work ... It brings together letters, written by a certain Alix Payen, and collected by Michèle Audin. For many, they are unpublished, from family archives, notebooks or the book by Alix Payen's brother, Paul Millet.
Born Louise Alix Millet in 1842, Alix Payen stands out a bit in all the testimonies that we have on the period of the Paris Commune. She is not a prominent and noticed character of the time. It has attracted little attention from historians, and for good reason! She is not a member of the International Workers' Association, did not write articles in the press at the time, let alone a remarkable participant in a club. Her social origins keep her outside the usual frames of reference, neither worker nor aristocrat. She was born into a bourgeois family of Fourierist affiliation. She was just herself, with her loved ones, in the midst of the turmoil.

"A thermometer hanging in a corner"
She was twenty-nine when she made up her mind. The fact that her husband was engaged in combat probably had something to do with it. In April 1871 she joined the 153 th battalion of the National Guard as a paramedic and nurse. As such, she took part in the fight for the defense of Fort d'Issy, then Fort de Vanves. These two forts ensured the protection of the city of Paris against the Versailles abuses.

Alix Payen writes during the rare moments of respite. His letters are a series of moments taken from life; from lived experience in its raw state The prose is moving when she writes to Henri, her husband, and also in the letters sent to her father or her mother. She uses affectionate expressions: "Dear Mignon", " my fat", and signs "Your old woman", all accompanied by warm attentions.

Alix Payen also often talks about the difficulties of routing mail and the lack of answers. The events of March 1871, the proclamation of the Commune, the elections ... there is no question. She describes what she sees, what she experiences; the difficult conditions of the fighting, the men who sleep in the vaults of the cemeteries, the life in the trenches. She is astonished at the perfect linguistic convenience of the Parisian workers, at their kindness towards her.

On May 29, 1871, her husband died. She was not condemned by a military tribunal and managed to leave Paris with a pass. She joined the Fourierist Colony of Condé sur Vesgre and died in 1903.

Direct accounts of this period are extremely rare. Most of the documentation usually comes from memorial transcriptions made several decades later, such as those of Gustave Lefrançais, Victorine Brocher ( Souvenirs d'une morte vivante ), Lucien Descaves ( Philémon, old man of the Old Woman ), Elie Reclus ( The Paris Commune from day to day ), etc.

From the latter, we can borrow this quote placed in the foreword of his work: "Not a story this - I was not one of the characters, not even a confidant of the characters - I was a citizen, taking care, worrying me, watching, listening, among the less misinformed.[...]A thermometer hanging in a corner ..."

Alix Payen, now forgotten like many others, was one of them: "She defended Paris and provided care to the wounded."

"The vanquished have no history. Let's break this chain of iniquity" (Benoît Malon)

Dominique Sureau (UCL Angers)

Alix Payen, It is at night especially that the fight becomes furious: a paramedic from the Municipality, 1871 , Libertalia, May 2020, 128 pages, 8 euros.

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