El fill del coronel

The Coronel’s Son | L'Avenç, 2017

Joan Daniel Bezsonoff brings an end to his highly acclaimed trilogy of youthful memoirs (beginning with Una educaciĂł francesa, before taking up the story with Les meues universitats) with this account of his national service in Paris, in a masterclass of nostalgia-tinged wonder combined with ironic detachment.

“I spent my entire youth next to some French barracks, where my father worked as an army doctor. My readers may well have spotted that many of my protagonists have ties to the world of the military. Even though the French army continues to exert a powerful pull on me, I have never worn an officer’s stripes. As my army tests revealed, I have the IQ of your average chimpanzee. I accepted the verdict without a trace of false modesty. In spite of everything I know, of all the books I’ve read, I still retain a true fondness for the French army. I have met more cultured, open-minded folk among the officers I have known than I have among the Jacobin teachers I have come across. The French officers possessed great humanity, as well as the resigned sense of humour of the downtrodden. They had forgotten to strike words such as honour, courage and sacrifice from their personal dictionaries. They still looked trustingly towards the heavens, though they suspected that God was no longer a French speaker.”