War, Memory, and the Politics of Humor: The Canard Enchaine and World War I

War, Memory, and the Politics of Humor: The Canard Enchaine and World War I

War, Memory, and the Politics of Humor: The Canard Enchaine and World War I

War, Memory, and the Politics of Humor: The Canard Enchaine and World War I

Synopsis

"War, Memory, and the Politics of Humor "features carnage and cannibalism, gender and cross-dressing, drunks and heroes, militarism and memory, all set against the background of World War I France. Allen Douglas shows how a new satiric weekly, the "Canard Enchaine, "exploited these topics and others to become one of France's most influential voices of reaction to the Great War. The "Canard, "still published today, is France's leading satiric newspaper and the most successful periodical of the twentieth century, and Douglas colorfully illuminates the mechanisms of its unique style.

Following the "Canard "from its birth in 1915 to the eve of the Great Depression, the narrative reveals a heady mix of word play, word games, and cartoons. Over the years the journal--generally leftist, specifically antimilitarist and anti-imperialist--aimed its shots in all directions, using some stereotypes the twenty-first century might find unacceptable. But Douglas calls its humor an affirmation of life, and as such the most effective antidote to war.

Excerpt

In 1924, the third of September was a Wednesday. We can easily imagine that it was sunny and mild, the kind of day when Parisians sipped their drinks and read their newspapers outside in the sidewalk cafés. Why not, then, imagine this too? A man in his early thirties has just ordered a Vouvray. He wears a Croix de Guerre in his lapel; his left leg is extended stiffly: probably a war wound. After all, the Great War has been over for less than six years. He opens his newspaper and begins to read. The article is entitled “Long Live the Courts-Martial!” But our veteran is smiling, despite the repressive reputation of these military tribunals. Let us read over his shoulder.

One could perhaps vacillate over the designation of the being most antipathetic to the valiant Parisian population.

—It is the cop, Mr. Poincaré would say, jealous of the popularity of his successor.

—No, it's the concierge, a number of regular guys, who have stood in the rain awaiting the opening of a hospitable door, would argue.

—Error, it's the creditor, individuals short of dough would affirm. But what if one encountered a phenomenon who united in his sole and unique person the triple quality of cop, of Cerberus, and of the lender, there would certainly be only a cry of horror against him. And we would acclaim the hero who did not fear to tackle this redoubtable trinity.

This was fully understood by the second court-martial, which has just acquitted the valiant Captain Rouhier, who shot down with his revolver his concierge, the peace officer Jacquinot, who dared to insist on the repayment of the money he had lent to him.

After noting that if anyone else had attacked such a pillar of society, the jurors would surely have headed him for severe punishment, the article goes on:

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