On an impact of WWI

Among the approximately 1.3 million Frenchmen killed in WWI, were two young family fathers: 28 and 33 years of age respectively.

The first, a member of the 54th Company of the 1st Zouave regiment died in hospital on the 11th of October 1914 as a result of wounds from the first battle of the Marne in September 1914. The second, a sergeant in the 75th infantry regiment went missing in Perthes-lès-Hurlus, during the second battle of Champagne and was declared dead on the 26th September 1915.

The first was buried in Saint-Brieuc, far across the sea from his family and home in Algeria, in a country he had never lived in before, while the body of the other was only found in 1932 when a field was being ploughed, and the body identified by its tags.*

The first was a poor vineyard worker, a cellarman by trade, and the other a teacher of English.

The first left behind a partially deaf, illiterate widow, Catherine Hélène née Sintes (1882-1960), and two sons born in 1911 and 1913; the other  already a widower, left behind a daughter and son, again born in 1911 and 1913 respectively.

The first had grown up in an orphanage from infancy, after the deaths of both his parents, and his widowed wife moved with her 2 young children to her mother’s home, eking out a living thereafter as a cleaner.

The sergeant’s orphaned children continued living in Rennes with his parents and sister in whose care he had left his motherless children before he went off to war; his children having scant or no contact to the family of their mother, Florentine née Favre (1878-1913).

The deaths of  Lucien Auguste Camus (1885-1914) and Léon Jules Ricoeur (1881-1915) not only had a profound impact on their bereaved families, but also on 20th-century literature and philosophy through the writings and political engagement of their fatherless younger sons, Albert Camus (1913-1960) and Paul Ricoeur (1913-2005) respectively.

* Paul Ricoeur, La critique et la conviction, 1995, p. 11.


5 thoughts on “On an impact of WWI

  1. Un héro absurd

    @Les dieux avaient condamné Sisyphe à rouler sans cesse un rocher jusqu’au sommet d’une montagne d’où la pierre retombait par son propre poids. Ils avaient pensé avec quelque raison qu’il n’est pas de punition plus terrible que le travail inutile et sans espoir. Si l’on en croit Homère, Sisyphe était le plus sage et le plus prudent des mortels. Selon une autre tradition cependant, il inclinait au métier de brigand. Je n’y vois pas de contradiction.@
    This is the opening paragraph of Camus’ his first work: Le mythe de Sisyphe. Essai sur l’absurde (1942).
    Could this be Camus commenting on the absurdity of soldiers’ death in battle?
    When death as the most absurd of notions is considered a given, is there any difference between losing a father in battle or in a hospital’s deathbed?
    Dear Cherine thank you for reminding of one of my youth’s most favourite readings.


    1. My understanding of the philsophy of the absurd is that it was a response to the horrors of the Shoah. Somewhere or other, I came across a response from Ricouer to something that Camus had written, can’t quite remember my source right now, but Ricouer said that the characters Camus created were in response to the horrors and atrocities of the 20th century.


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