It’s Bastille Day, and since I spend every evening of the first three weeks in July watching the Tour de France with my husband, I have been trying to find a natural connection between it and the blog. The world’s greatest bicycle race began July 3 and continues until July 25, bringing together bicyclists from all over the world to ride more than 2,200 miles over cobble stones, mountains, and of course, the Champs E’lysees.
It’s the 97th Tour, which made me wonder what happened with the Tour during World War II. According to the official Tour de France website, there was no official Tour between 1939 and 1947. Additional sources say it was suspended, but other low-key races were put together that included the most popular riders. I guess this would be akin to a strike by the National Hockey League and having well-known players decide to play at Wollman Rink. Henri Desgrange, the original race organizer, and Jacques Goddet, his deputy and replacement, had planned a race for 1940 but dropped the idea after the German invasion in June.
Irène Némirovsky vividly describes the evacuation of Paris in her remarkable novel Suite Française. If the evacuation had taken place even a month later and if the race had still been held, imagine what a bicycle race would have been like: Parisians evacuating to the South and in and among all those traffic jams more than 100 bicyclists darting between the cars, the straight-aways taken at usually breakneck speed clogged with Peugeots, and the absence of faithful fans lining the streets to cheer for their beloved Frenchmen to bring home the maillot jaune (yellow jersey).
And speaking of Irène, this fall the Memorial de la Shoah in Paris will display an adaptation of our exhibition Woman of Letters: Irène Némirovsky and Suite Française. We are so pleased that the exhibition will be seen at this beautiful museum in Irene’s adopted home. When it first opened here, the French media made it clear that the exhibition belonged in Paris, and now it will have its rightful place. Our partners at IMEC, the caretakers of Irene’s work, are co-producing the exhibition.
Vive la France!
Photo is of a young Walter Faerber riding in a bike in Berlin, 1934. Gift of Walter and Phyllis Ferber