mercredi, 31 août 2016
In memoriam Dominique Venner: The softspoken rebel
In memoriam Dominique Venner: The softspoken rebel
In May 2013, we heard, stunned, the dreadful news on the radio: ”The death of the far-right writer and former activist Dominique Venner, by suicide, inside Notre-Dame-de-Paris”. So was it quoted. On this occasion, the Schadenfreude of the leftist columnists was painful to bear although not unexpected. I thought, after a few days, that he took the real measure of what was going to happen to Europe. We witness it week after week, day after day… That was, in my opinion, a true act of stoïcist rebellion.
First thing first, I have to admit, that I -unfortunately- never physically met Dominique Venner; my contacts with him having been merely intellectual and spiritual, through his numerous writings. The very first time I “met” Dominique Venner, it occurred on a shelf of a good old second hand bookshop in Brussels downtown, Rue des Eperonniers (do not rush, it closed about ten years ago…) in the summer of 1994. ”Le Blanc Soleil des Vaincus”. It was one of these afternoon a student has plenty of time ahead of him, not too much to worry about and, thankfully a few quids in his pockets. I then felt that my collection of War and Battlefields (although, this has not much to do with the common militaria) needed to get expanded with some valuable new readings… Along classics like Caesar, Thucycides, the usual-and rather boring Memoir of B. Montgomery, Osprey albums, you might have the chance of finding out what is commonly called ”the nefarious authors section”… For those who know, there is just nothing nefarious in there. Just a set of men who made up their mind and delivered some masterpieces without any of the taboos created by political correctness and, admittedly, with some kind of talent, to say the least… 1975: ”Le Blanc Soleil des Vaincus” dealt, in a nutshell, with the origins, the causes and the consequences of the Civil War. This was an apocalypse- in the etymological sense of the word- for the young history student I was then. To me, embedded in non sense studies (at least the way it was then taught) that was just the ticket! Slavery in the South compared with the poor conditions in which Negroes were held in the abolitionists States, the callous strategy against the South, the economic background of the War between the States, the mourn after surrender and the end of a civilization… All topics usually treated with disdain or corrupted by political and historical correctness. Dominique Venner dared, with courage, to give an honest and original view on the Civil War, far from the Marxist-Leninist vulgate pretty much in the air for years-especially after 1968. I made my stand from then on: this man, having the courage to write this kind of essay, definitely deserved some space in my humble own private library.
Another sample of his great historical acumen, and destined to be a definitive classic on the subject: Baltikum. This is another brilliant sample of clear view and methodic enquiry-after all, history means enquiry in Greek-using many sources, in different languages (among them, German …) proving, thereby, that he was an historian to be reckoned with, and not merely a histrionic activist… Clio actually found in him a remarkable herald.
The title itself sounded to me like a call to open range, new horizons and… for rebellion. What happens in the immediate aftermaths of WWI in Germany and in the mysterious landscapes of the Eastern marches? The literature in French was practically inexistent and, if any, biased. The fascinating destiny of Rossbach, Märker, and many others, the fate of the Baltic States and Baltic People, the Marxist insurgency of Munich and the way the Free Corps prevail to re-establish law and order… All of this, for me, friends or colleagues revealed, what an historian ought to be: audacious, rational, sober and approaching the truth. Herodotus and Thucydides having paved the way. He worked there as a true historian, regardless of the ideological pressure of the times (by the way, we have to endure it, on many occasions, in our university) in the light of the very definition given by Herodotus himself.
Nevertheless, if there was one source of inspiration for Venner, it was, without any doubt, any reservation, the poems of the Great Homer: Illiad and the Odysseus, with the threatening figure of Achilles, the epitome of the European heroes, and in the background and foreground, nevertheless; the Gods. Here lies, as it appeared to him, the backbone of Western civilization and all his work appears to illustrate the perenity of those purely male qualities. Venner was naturally, very aware of the hubris of the son of Thetis and Peleus but his (Venner’s) own fate is probably likely to Hector’s -a true-ante literam-stoician hero-dying for his family and his country. What lacks our civilization, notwithstanding the ever growing level of technical accuracy, is probably the spirit of the “Mos Maiorum”. In most of his production, we can find an actualization of those centennial virtues: Westerling, Märker, Wrangel, Lee, Achilles,…you name it. All of them; men, soldiers, heroes were key figures of a long European tradition.
This European “Gesta” was and still is, illustrated, monthly, in the “Nouvelle Revue d’Histoire”-previously “Enquête sur l’Histoire”, launched by D. Venner. This was in my opinion a fairly remarkable endeavour to create, support and upgrade through the various contributions of an impressive cluster of academics, writers and talented pundits, such an interesting and invigorating review. What makes every release an event would one ask? The answer is simple to me: It was-and still is-different. Life, as we know too well, being based on difference and not on uniformity. Most of, if not all, of the topics (frontiers, war, identity, ethnicity, gender, civilization,…) tackled there are now the core of the battle, We, Europeans, have to face today and for many decades to come. The matter is that the so called European “leaders” didn’t want neither to see nor to face the reality, resulting in the topsy-turvy world we must live in nowadays.
As I wrote, we actually never met, but he seemed to me an introspective sort of chap, very much in touch with the ethos of an authentic “civis romanus”, walking in the footsteps of a Cincinnatus or a Cato… As an authentic pagan -and I fairly believe that he would not be embarrassed in, any way, being labeled as such- he refused any kind of yoke and was very ready to commit himself on the way to freedom. Freedom of thinking, freedom of speech, Freedom... I can’t help reminding some lines he wrote toward the end of its “Le Coeur Rebelle”: “finish in style is not in everyone hands. Achieving his own death is one of the most important acts in a man’s life[i]”. This was perhaps his true testimony… So did Dominique Venner, in his own and personal way… Keep fighting when all seems about to be lost, that is the real measure of man. May his example never be forgotten.
[i] VENNER (D.), Le Cœur Rebelle, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1994, p. 194.