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All Blacks join French WWI commemorations

The All Blacks have joined in World War I commemorations in France, with a specially-designed jersey featuring a poppy on the sleeve, for their contest with France on Saturday. French President François Hollande earlier announced plans for an "unprecendented" WWI memorial in 2014.

All Blacks join French WWI commemorations
A specially designed New Zealand rugby jersey featuring a poppy, will be worn in their clash with France on Saturday, to commemorate World War I. Photo: @AllBlacks/Twitter

New Zealand will wear a specially designed white jersey with a red poppy on the sleeve when they tackle France in Paris on Saturday, two days before Armistice Day commemorations.

The All Blacks unveiled a picture of the shirt on their Twitter feed Friday and captain Richie McCaw later told journalists that it was important to remember those who fought during the First World War.

The gesture, which was accompanied by a "lest we forget" hashtag, comes just two days after All Blacks players visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the Arc de Triomphe in the French capital.


All Blacks squad members pay tribute to French war veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Photo: All Blacks/Youtube

"We just took the time to make sure everyone understood the reason for wearing the poppy," he said.

"It's obvious you'll never (forget about it) in these parts of the world but a lot of Kiwis had a few bits to do with things during World War One and we wanted to make sure everyone knew why we were wearing one on our jersey."

'An unprecedented assembly and a great demonstration for peace'

The gesture by the New Zealand rugby team came just a day after French president François Hollande announced an unprecedented assembly of world leaders in France, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, next year.

France will issue an unprecedented invitation to all 72 countries involved in World War I to take part in its annual Bastille Day military parade in July next year, Hollande announced on Thursday.

Bastille Day, on July 14, will fall just before the 100th anniversary of the start of the 1914-18 Great War.

Hollande also revealed that Germany's President, Joachim Gauck, will come to France for a ceremony on August 3, 2014, which will be exactly a century after the two countries declared war on each other.

"I asked the president of the Federal Republic (Germany) Mr Gauck to come to France on the occasion of the commemoration of this tragic act, he has accepted and I thank him for that," Hollande said in a speech launching the centenary.

"On July 14, all 72 countries that we can call belligerents of the Great War will be invited to take part in the parade on the Champs-Elysees.

"They will be gathered together for an unprecedented national festival – unprecedented because it will be international.

"There will be soldiers in their uniforms with their flags but young civilians will also take part in what will be a great demonstration for peace."

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HISTORY

‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.

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