Scarlet Pimpernel

Here’s the irony of national memory: in this country, where expectations are made explicitly clear, and rules are enforced with so that you cannot ignore them, it is the rebels and radicals who have statues erected in the streets and squares. Public thoroughfares carry the names of revolutionaries, and schools bear the names of insurrectionists. When you know where to look for them, the people who sacrificed themselves to change the course of history are not lost at all. Some of them, like Joan of Arc, are fairly obvious–names impossible to stifle–but you have to do a little research to know why there’s a metro stop named Fry, a name that seems so out of place in our part of the world. And when the Council instructed me to spend time in the Library, in order to Listen to my fellow citizens, I had to do something with the other part of my brain, so I started writing down the names I didn’t recognize, and looking them up in the history room of the Central Library. Varian Fry, a Scarlet Pimpernel for the twentieth century, who sent 2,000 artists and intellectuals over the border with what was then called Spain, to rescue them from the fascist-friendly French government of the last Occupation. It’s surprisingly, unnervingly, easy to uncover the names of those who have resisted the dominant paradigm.

*This story continues a series of short stories about Nerva and Grimpe… you can find their stories in the archives.*

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