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Chapter Nine

from And the Shark, He Has Teeth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2018

Benjamin Bloch
Affiliation:
Oberlin College
Marc Silberman
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin
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Summary

In the Province of Calvados, where the apple brandy of the same name is produced, where tall hedges separate lush meadows, and the moist, mild sea climate keeps the marshland grasses green almost all year long, I found a dainty Louis XV castle with a farmyard and pigeon-house, a park and a pond. The property had been mostly untouched for 150 years, and had a symmetry and harmony with nature that one often finds in the Romance cultures. I turned the place into an educational farm, primarily for students who wanted to be retrained as farmhands. An impatient son of friends of ours didn't want to wait until we came to Petiville, the small place in Calvados, and I agreed to let him travel ahead of us to the farm, which was still unoccupied by people or animals. He was one of the many young emigrants from Paris whose family had lost the means to keep their children in school, and who, having grown tired of inactivity, were looking eagerly for ways to learn a new set of professional skills. Overjoyed, he telephoned his parents and described the landscape and the sea to them, and in particular two tame, white ducks he had discovered upon his arrival at the farm. These two birds, I later explained to the parents, had lived many years on the lake at Petiville. They were geese, incidentally, and not ducks. “Please don't tell him,” the mother said. “It would upset him. He wants so much to be a farmer.”

We moved to Petiville and sent for our children, who had gone back to Germany once more to live for a short time with their grandparents and attend school in Hangelsberg. When we met them at the station they carried, under their jackets, belts with swastikas and daggers with blood grooves engraved on the clasp, and a National Socialist songbook. We sunk these objects in the pond.

I began to populate the farm with people and livestock. I hired a German emigrant with a diploma in agronomy, a Russian emigrant French teacher, a French master gardener with assistants, a milkmaid and a cook native to the region. I bought a draft -horse, pigs, and an old, hulking Buick for animal, human and vegetable transport.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2018

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