“Impossible” must be eliminated from our vocabularies!
Professor Pizier lives in a trailer. In order to be prepared, as he says. He’s set for his getaway. His bags are packed. He has ten canisters of gasoline and if need be, could escape to North Africa via Malaga and Algeciras without stopping at a pump. If “they” come, they won’t catch him. They caught him forty times. They locked him up in a camp forty times—but he always managed to slip out. I made a movie of the forty-first time. Watch my movie and you’ll understand.
Pizier is a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he used to lecture on special education. He claims he believes in human educability. Moreover, even in the educability of idiots. There’s just one exception to prove the rule, he says. That’s Fascists. Fascists are not teachable. Fascists are born that way and remain that way throughout their lives. Fascism is a manifestation of lovelessness, he explains. A Fascist’s mind is cold. There is no cure for Fascists. All you can do is kill them or run from them. Pizier favors the second solution and is ready to run. By the way, he looks like van Gogh in his famous self-portrait. His hair is unkempt, his eyes are bewildered, but his lips form a gentle smile.
Professor Pizier lives in a campground at Villaine near Paris. I met him while washing my shirts there. We’d barely exchanged a few words when my mind was made up: I’d shoot a TV movie about him. He stood facing me and warily asked if I were German. I said no. Did I have some detergent left, he then wanted to know. Of course I still had detergent. I’m not a German, but cleanliness is very important to me. So I gave him what he wanted, and we hit it off.
From the subject of detergent to Franz Kafka was just a stone’s throw. The professor claimed this guy Kafka had been a strange mixture. Half German, half Jew.
“Why is that such a strange mixture? By the way, he was Austrian and not German. We need to make proper distinctions, I think.”
“C’est la même chose,” he replied, “it amounts to the same thing. Anyhow, you can’t be a German and a Jew at the same time.”
“You’re talking like Hitler now, Monsieur.”
“I’m talking like Pizier. You can’t be pursuer and pursued at the same time. Imagine a cross between wolf and lamb. There’s no such thing.”
“Do you speak German?”
“Not one word and I’ll never learn it.”
“Beethoven spoke German, Monsieur, and so did Bach.”
“The exception proves the rule.”
“How do you make your living, Monsieur Pizier?”
“I used to teach pedagogy. My works have been translated into nine languages.”
“Now I’m insane. I have an ID card that says I’m schizophrenic. I’m drawing my monthly salary and living on private income.”
“Surely you must be doing something, Monsieur.”
“I write letters. To every agency on God’s earth.”
“I’m looking for my friend, Dr. Senison of L’vov, who may no longer be alive.”
“Is that so important to you?”
“It’s vital, because I murdered him.”
I was left speechless. Was he serious? Or was this a manifestation of his mental disturbance? Pizier did not smile, but only bared his teeth. Grumpy and grim. This person aroused my curiosity.
“What do you mean by saying you murdered him? If that’s true, then he’s dead, and inquiring about him makes no sense.”
“But I’m telling you I’m crazy. I’ve got an ID to prove it. A doctor’s certificate. I murdered my friend, because, at the decisive moment, I abandoned him to his fate.”
“And what does that have to do with Kafka?”
“They asked Kafka where he was going. And do you know what he said?”
‘”Away from here,’ Kafka replied. Away from here! That’s why I’ve got this trailer. Because I’ve got just one destination in life. Away from here!”
“So you’re writing to all agencies on God’s earth. Have you ever had an answer?”
“Hundreds of answers. No one knows anything about him. Dr. Senison is neither dead nor alive. He is a ghost. He haunts my conscience.”
“Perhaps he’s alive, Monsieur. Where did you meet him?”
“In L’vov. In 1943. Right during the apocalypse. I was a prisoner of war—they had caught me for the forty-first time. This time they were not joking. They put me in the worst camp they had. Rava-Ruska, two kilometers from L’vov. There was no breaking out of Rava-Ruska, no escape. In Rava-Ruska you could only die. No one was able to get away.”
“How do you know?”
“Because you asked me for detergent. That proves to me you’re still alive. So you got away.”
“Yes, it was my forty-first time. I told myself what I remembered of Kafka: ‘Away from here!’ and decided to climb down into the underworld. Do you know what the underworld looks like?”
“I can imagine.”
“No, Monsieur. You can’t imagine. I went down into the sewer—dans les égouts de Rava-Ruska. Anyone else would rather die than crawl through shit. But I would rather crawl through shit than die. I was obsessed with staying alive. I wanted to be there when Hitler lost the war. I wanted to see the Fascist gang cry for mercy and swing from the gallows. I thirsted for the taste of peace. I longed for steaming hot coffee on a clean breakfast table. For snow-white linens in a closet smelling of lavender.”
“And that’s why you climbed down into the underworld?”
“I crawled on my belly through a labyrinth of concrete pipes. At snail’s pace. Overcome by nausea. I threw up everything inside me. It was pitch dark when I felt a slight prickle on my skin. I just knew: those were worms, intestinal parasites, spongers inhabiting human guts. Maw worms, trematodes, liver flukes. The eerie fauna of all Rava-Ruska’s feces. I reeled, close to insanity. I crawled, gasped, and struggled through hell for days, until I suddenly felt a draft blowing toward me. I couldn’t believe it: freedom! I am a godless rationalist, but at that moment I started praying. This was the end of the underworld. It emptied into a river peacefully murmuring by. The night around me was velvet-black, but it was the sweetest darkness ever. It was icy winter, but to me, the most intoxicating spring of my whole life. Shouting with joy, I rushed into the water to recover my old self. I washed with river sand until my skin tore. I scoured every inch of my body until I collapsed with pain. Though my prison garments still smelled of muck, I was a human being again.
“As I peered through the December fog, I saw a pale gleam. A house must be very near, most likely a summer house. Cautiously, I crept toward the light—and indeed, someone was standing there. A silhouette was staring through the window. An old man. Why would he be peering outside at this hour? Was he afraid? If so, he was my comrade, a member of the army of the pursued. But maybe not. He could just as well be a pursuer. He could be a guard. A stool pigeon, an informer. And now he’d seen me. He appeared to wave to me. What was he trying to tell me? Should I come in? Should I watch out for approaching danger? Either was possible, but I had nothing to lose. I interpreted his gesture as an invitation and knocked on the door. A snow-white little man, frail and hunchbacked, opened up. ‘My name is Senison. Who are you?’
“‘My name is Pizier and I’m an officer in the French army.’
“‘Anyone can say that.’
“‘I come from Rava-Ruska and don’t have any papers.’
“‘That should be obvious.’
“‘You would be the first to have managed a getaway. How can you prove that you are a Frenchman?’
“‘I speak French.’
“‘So do I, Monsieur. Every educated Pole speaks French.’
“‘I speak it without an accent.’
“‘That, too, proves nothing.’
“Then I had an idea. I clicked my heels, saluted and sang the ‘Marseillaise’ in a whisper. For the first time in years, while tears ran down my cheeks. And then he believed me. Rather, he didn’t believe me but my tears, and said, ‘Welcome to my house, dear friend. I salute you in the name of the Polish Resistance Movement. What is mine is yours as well. Come inside. I don’t have much, but from now on, you are in your own home. Help yourself!’
“Those were no empty words. He shared his bread and milk with me and then showed me his quarters—a medium-sized room. He said I must hide. The Gestapo would come when least expected and search the house from top to bottom. He offered me his concert grand, but I didn’t understand what he meant. He meant exactly what he said: I was supposed to live in the case of his musical instrument. Between base and treble strings. Surrounded by hammer heads, lifter rods and wippens. That was no mean sacrifice for my host, because he was a piano teacher and needed the grand for his piano lessons. Indignant, I started to turn him down, because his idea seemed crackbrained to me. I was sorry, I said, but under those conditions I would need to find another refuge. I was about to make my exit, when he sharply ordered, ‘Stay!’ He was speaking in the name of the Polish Resistance, and insubordination was not an option. As he spoke, he put blankets in my sleeping place and sent me to the bathroom to wash up. My smell was bothering him. So I gave in and did what Senison wanted. That was the beginning of exile in my benefactor’s piano and the happiest days of my life.”
I’d let the Frenchman have some detergent, but that didn’t mean I believed him. The story of his escape was, to put it mildly, implausible. A concert grand as a bedstead seemed absurd to me. That’s why I asked if he’d managed his sojourn in the wooden case without any physical or psychological problems. Pizier looked at me and rubbed his temples, calling back memory. “Physically it was like torture—thirteen months folded up like a court document. Jammed tight like a sardine in a can. Unbearable cramps shot through me again and again. My back was sore from constantly lying down. My muscles grew more and more flabby, and I nearly choked from lack of oxygen. I wondered if I was going to pieces. Though I was free, this freedom was destroying me—it was leading to gradual self-annihilation. I kept toying with the idea of giving up. I felt like breaking out of my coffin even at the risk of death. My friend, it certainly was a coffin and I was buried alive. But the cramps proved to me I was still living. The cramps and the fear that one day they’d come, would search and discover me.
“We were indeed surrounded. The barbed wire fence was not far away, the hell that was Rava-Ruska. The torture factory. I could see the window through a crack in my piano. Behind it, a birch forest. A road that disappeared in the sand. Lungwort, corydalis, daphne, flowers of my childhood. The smells of my home came back to me. I thought of the Seine. Of poplar-lined avenues, barges gliding across the water. I heard the musette. I danced on the Pigalle, yet realized that, sooner or later, they would come. I told my rescuer that I couldn’t stay. That I was homesick. I had to return—to France. I’d sooner die than consume my life waiting. Senison answered in a shrill voice that I needed to stay, that I had to hold out till the end of the war. This was an order from the Polish Resistance—un ordre de la Résistance Polonaise.
“He had barely finished speaking when our summer house shook. An arms transport was passing by. A tank column rumbled through the forest. Then silence returned and I resigned myself to fate. The piano teacher threw me a helpless glance, but from now on our relationship changed. No longer did he order me around. He was gentle. He did everything he could to make me happy, so that I would stay. To prevent having to live in his summer house alone, he organized performances for me. He invited artists in—members of the Resistance—musicians, actors, and young poets. They whispered poems by Mickiewicz and Slowacki to while away my time. One day I got permission to leave the piano, just when a golden-haired Wanda recited the glorious verses from the Polish national epic for me, from Pan Tadeusz. I didn’t understand one word, but it sent shivers down my spine. I felt her love for her dishonored native land, and tears ran down my cheeks as when I sang the ‘Marseillaise.’ Deep emotion is like music. Everyone can understand it. I had to walk up to the girl and kiss her. When was the last time I’d kissed a girl? When she hugged me, I felt that I, too, was a Pole. A Pole, a Frenchman and citizen of the world at the same time. We were victims of the same barbarians. That’s why we felt we were kindred spirits.
“From then on I thought of escape less often, and Senison claimed that all danger was past. Until one day a giant knocked on the door. I nearly jumped in my concert grand. The piano teacher opened up and asked what the gentleman wanted. The gentleman spoke in a honeyed voice. He was a German officer and had heard that there was a genuine Bösendorf grand piano here. He was a concert pianist himself and longed to play on a real Bösendorf again. He didn’t mean to intrude and apologized for his unannounced arrival.
“Senison turned white as a sheet. Through a crack in the piano I observed a nervous twitch around his mouth. After an embarrassing pause, Senison asked what the gentleman wished to perform. ‘An etude by Chopin.’ That was, to put it mildly, sensational. A German officer wanted to play Chopin, the Polish Chopin in a Polish private home. Senison was curious: which etude did he want to play? With an imperceptible bow, the officer answered, ‘The Revolutionary Etude, if you don’t mind.’
“‘I don’t mind. On the contrary.’
“The German briefly cleared his throat and struck a chord. The concert piano was out of tune, clattering like an old Bakelite record. Senison froze. He foresaw the next step. The officer rose, pulled a tuning key out of his pocket, opened up the piano—and there I was. Among the hammerheads and lifter rods, damper arms and bridle tape. I looked aghast, certain my last hour had come. Instead, I witnessed the most astonishing comedy of my life. The man pretended not to be aware of me. He tuned the strings until harmonious sounds rolled from the grand and started playing. I don’t know whether my ears were particularly sensitive at that time, but I felt as if I had never heard anything quite like it. The German played the Revolutionary Etude. No, better than that: he played the Revolution. The uprising against suppression. The passion of a tortured people transformed into music. He of all people, who was wearing the uniform of the master race. With the swastika on his cap. When he had finished playing, he bowed to Senison and left as he had come. Without a word. Without introducing himself. The piano lid was still open. I still cowered in my corner when Senison rushed toward me and said a horrified whisper, ‘You have to go now, my friend! Immediately. They will be here in less than an hour. Take this money. I’ll give you provisions for the road, and then—get out!’
“‘I’m staying with you.’
“‘I said get out. May God protect you!’
“‘I’m going as soon as you join me. We’ll run away together or not at all!’
“‘I am an officer in the Polish Resistance. My place is here in Poland.’
“‘They’ll shoot you like a dog. As an accomplice to my escape.’
“‘That is my problem, not yours.’
“‘I can’t leave you in the lurch. We’ve become friends these thirteen months.’
“‘Stop chattering and beat it!’
“‘Not without you.’
“‘To hell with you! Right now! This is an order. Un ordre de la Résistance Polonaise.‘
“I obeyed and cleared out. ‘Away from here,’ to quote Kafka. I roamed through bleeding Europe for exactly one hundred days. Through demolished cities and burned villages. I crossed Bohemia and Austria, Italy and the Mediterranean coast. And then my dream came true: I saw my native country again. La belle France. I came upon a partisan group operating in Savoy. Soon after, the war ended. The world cheered. All of France partied. I alone sank into depression—for I suddenly realized that I had murdered my friend. My rescuer, who’d probably been arrested and shot. I was the culprit. Because I had put myself first.”
My shirts were done washing, so I hung them up on a line. Pizier’s story distressed me, though it was nearly twenty years old. How did he know that Senison had been picked up and murdered? That could only be speculation. The German officer didn’t have to be a villain. He had played the Revolutionary Etude. Surely that could also be a sign of fellow feeling. Evidence of solidarity. I went back and forth over this. Granted, Senison had to be careful then. Who could afford carelessly reaching out to the enemy? No one in his right mind. And then this tuning key. That was suspicious. No one always carries a tuning key. Why had the German brought it along? Did he know the Bösendorf piano to be out of tune? Unlikely. So he came with the intention to open the case. Because he knew or thought that someone was hiding in it. And then that comedy, as if he hadn’t seen Pizier in the concert grand. That was particularly odd. He might have smiled or made some remark. That he was no enemy, for example. But he said nothing, revealing himself as a probable informer. But why did he play the Revolutionary Etude? Why so passionately? So genuinely? That was more than a demonstration of sympathy. An alliance was almost being forged there. A peace treaty between Poland, France and Germany.
“Nonsense,” Pizier said. “The man was wearing the uniform of the mass murderers. He had the Fascist insignia on his cap. Therefore he was a Fascist, and you can’t educate Fascists. Maybe the feeble-minded, but not Fascists. He played the Revolutionary Etude in order to dupe two men, to calm their suspicions and lessen their vigilance. He had come specifically to track down an escaped prisoner. He did track him down and his accomplice, too. The punishment for aiding escapees was death. No, they picked up Senison and put him up against the wall. Senison is dead. According to logical calculation he can no longer be alive.”
Thus reasoned Pizier, but I sensed that he doubted his own conclusions. Absolutely, for otherwise he wouldn’t have written so many letters. To every agency in existence. The UN, the International Red Cross. True, all of them had written back that the fate of Polish piano teacher Mieczýzlaw Senison was unknown. Nevertheless I said to Pizier, “Your line of thought is contradictory. You’re convinced that the German was a Fascist. And you claim with certainty that he had Senison arrested and shot. If you’re so sure of that, why are you still looking for him? There must be a flaw in your argument.”
Pizier sat down on a low wall between the washateria and the campground office. Nervously he played with the detergent I’d given him, pouring it from one hand to the other. He said, “Vous comprenez, mon ami, you understand, my friend, that certain phenomena can’t be explained by logic. They’re impervious. We French, as heirs of Descartes, want to explain everything by logic. But in Poland I learned that the better half of reality is obscure. This German was so incredibly involved in his playing, it’s possible he was on our side. You know, music is beyond formal logic. Its secrets are unfathomable; therefore it’s not entirely out of the question that the German indeed was our friend. If so, then he was no villain, and Senison is still alive. Chances are at best one in a thousand, but don’t we clutch at straws?”
“And that’s why you still write to all agencies in the world?”
“Yes. Until I know whether he’s alive or not.”
“And what if you never find out?”
“Then no one can help me. Look: here’s my ID saying I’m schizophrenic. There’s only one remedy for my sickness.”
“And that is?”
“La certitude, Monsieur. Certainty.”
This is where my own story began. Pizier was emotionally disturbed, apparently because he didn’t know whether Senison was still alive. He felt guilty, because he believed he had murdered him. That’s why I decided to intervene in the professor’s fate. I happened to be working in Poland. My job was with Polish television. This gave me opportunities to get at the truth. So I said to Pizier, “I want to investigate this matter. If there’s any hope at all of finding Senison, I’ll let you know.”
“There’s no such chance. I wrote to every city administration, including those in Poland, but Senison is missing. He’s not listed in any population count. He’d be eighty-five today. I’m almost certain that he is long dead. Either shot by the Nazis, or taken by old age and grief. Because his old friend left him in the lurch.”
“Senison did not die of old age. Nor of grief. Old soldiers never die! Such men live to be a hundred, because they’re as tough as army horses!”
“Then they put him against the wall.”
“I doubt it!”
“Then, why doesn’t anyone know him?”
“Because he’s not listed anywhere. In Poland thousands live underground. They’ve become used to illegality. First under the Germans and then under the Communists. Senison is one of those. I’m convinced of it.”
“And where do you mean to flush him out?”
” Somewhere in the western regions we took from the Germans.”
“What gives you that idea?”
“Because he’s from L’vov—the eastern regions the Russians chased us out of.”
I was determined to track down Senison. I had a feeling he was alive, and if so, I’d reunite the two. In Warsaw, for instance.
In brief, I told the story on my weekly program. Before I go on, let me explain my purpose for this program, a Monday talk show. I’d begun with the simple intention of attacking the expression “after all,” this little filler generally employed to underscore a statement’s unassailability. After all, water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. After all, you see more clearly in an east wind than in a south wind. After all, women’s judgments are more often based on emotions than men’s judgments. I throw a fit whenever I hear after all. It makes me furious, because I don’t believe in foregone conclusions. I was trying to unmask the silliness of this term on my program. The peril of after all-ism, as I called it.
This was a difficult enterprise, because after all-ism is one of the most widespread imbecilities of our time. Not only that: after all-ism is reinforced by television. Television intensifies all forms of prejudice. What’s worse, it reinforces them and raises them to eternal verities. For instance, TV created the cliché of the long-haired slacker and the short-haired achiever, of the red-haired nymphomaniac and the dishwater blonde homebody, the olive-skinned con man from the Middle East and the faceless, reliable, untroubled precision worker from Germany or Switzerland. Week after week I told stories on my Monday talk show to challenge these clichés. I had decided to fight against the consequences of TV shows on a TV show, of all things, and to an extent, it worked. My show became a success, and tens of thousands of letters testified that it was setting thought in motion.
The next Monday night, back in Warsaw, I told the story of Pizier and Senison—the story of the French professor who had lost his mind because he believed he’d caused a Polish friend’s death. The point of departure was favorable. The hero was a Frenchman, and in Poland, the public likes everything related to France. Besides, he was worried about the life of a Pole, a resistance fighter, an irreproachable fellow citizen. A story like that had to be well received. There was also the shady German, who after all must be involved in brave Senison’s tragedy. There could, after all, be no doubt. In my broadcast, I did nothing to cast doubt on the heroes of my story, but I asked the viewers to give me their opinion of the events I had told them about and to add possible helpful details for clearing up the case. Was Mieczýslaw Senison alive, and if so—as was unlikely—where might he be?
Over the days that followed I received more than 20,000 letters. Some of these were so unusual that I asked their authors to come to the capital, in order to repeat what they knew on camera. Among the confused pile of comments, some read more or less as follows: “I know Senison. I met him years after the war in Gliwice. He was neither betrayed by a German nor anyone else. Though I hate the Germans, in this case the guy is innocent.”
“I had a sister named Maria. She took her own life because no one would speak to her. People said she was a Nazi whore, a Hitler floozie, because she had been a German officer’s lover. His name was Wolfgang and he played the piano divinely. My sister loved him more than anyone. When he played for her she would weep with emotion. After the war they shaved her head. She was put on public display. The whole town passed by and spit in her face. She could not bear it. One day in November, she hanged herself.”
“I know where Senison is. He is in Silesia. But he stays underground because he detests the Communists just as much as the Nazis. He is eighty-five now. He is still an officer in the Resistance Movement. He is waiting for the day of retribution.”
“I’m still in nursing school. A year from now I’ll be twenty—but I know one thing: we Poles are no better than the Germans, and we don’t think logically at all. If Senison is still alive, the German did not betray him. So he was no Nazi, but our friend. I don’t understand why a German can’t be our friend.”
“In our village cemetery there is a German named Wolfgang Wiesenroth. His gravestone says he was a musician. The last year of the war, our partisans killed him. War is war.”
“If you guarantee that he’ll not be harmed, I’ll lead you to Senison. He knows you’re looking for him. He’s been told of your Monday program, and he’s willing to talk to you. He remembers the Frenchman and wants to see him again. Urgently. Nothing else would matter after that, and he could peacefully go to his grave.”
I answered without hesitation that I’d vouch with my honor that Senison could safely appear on my next program. Then I gave my assistants the needed instructions and flew to Paris. From the airport I went straight to the campground in Villaine. I was able to locate the professor in his trailer right away. As soon as he saw me, he jumped up from his chair and lit a cigarette with trembling fingers. “Were you able to find out anything?”
“Is he alive or dead?”
“If you can identify him, he’s alive. But you need to come with me.”
“We’re going to Warsaw. We’ll meet him there—perhaps. But it’s not certain. Perhaps we’ll meet someone else sailing under false colors. There are many people in our country who are culpable—collaborators, criminals, those condemned in absentia—and have assumed a dead person’s name. Only you can determine if it’s Senison or not.”
“When are we going?”
“Whenever you wish, Monsieur le Professeur.”
“Immediately. Can we get on a plane today?”
Several hours later we were on our way to Warsaw. Pizier had taken two shirts, underwear, and a toothbrush. He was confused and restless, unable to sit still in his seat, and kept calling the flight attendant to ask for such trifles as a toothpick. Or some cotton, because he couldn’t stand the rushing in his ears. And finally a handheld mirror.
“Why a mirror, Monsieur?” the flight attendant asked.
“Because I want to have a look at myself.”
“You are vain, Monsieur?”
“I can’t believe that I’m sitting in an airplane. I have to see this with my own eyes, because I feel as if I’m dreaming.”
“You’re fully awake, Monsieur. Would you like something to drink?”
“A vodka, Mademoiselle. And the hand mirror, please.”
The flight attendant brought what he wanted, and he asked her if she knew a certain Senison.
“Unfortunately not. Why?”
“Because I killed him. I’m a murderer.”
“But you look quite likeable. When did you kill him?”
“No one believes me. Everyone laughs at me.”
“I’m serious, Monsieur. You are the nicest murderer I’ve ever met. Another vodka?”
“Avec plaisir, Mademoiselle—but I’m an actual murderer. I’m flying to Warsaw in order to find Senison, but I won’t find him because he is dead.”
The professor emptied his second glass. He anxiously asked me when we would arrive. I answered, “Ninety minutes from now, if everything goes well.”
“That’s too long for me. I want to get off.”
“One and a half hours more, Professor. Have a little patience!”
Pizier buried his face in his hands, and I seemed to hear him softly whimpering. But he pulled himself together and flatly said, “I’m schizophrenic. I see things that aren’t there. I am not sitting in an airplane at all. Senison is dead. I have murdered him. I want to get off and have a drink.”
The flight attendant brought Pizier some orange juice spiked with a tranquilizer. The professor took the juice, soon fell asleep and did not wake up until the pilot announced the approach to Warsaw. Pizier started trembling, his face turned beet-red. Sweat ran from his forehead. I was worried about his condition and asked him if I could help. He did not answer, but stared through the window at the sea of lights below us.
We landed and rumbled along the concrete runway, in Warsaw at last. We stopped. They rolled up a stairway. The door opened, and a warm June night wafted toward us. The professor rushed to the exit, wanting to be the first one to get off—but he stopped on the top landing. What he saw before him was incredible. Surrounded by twelve concentrically aimed floodlights stood a chair, and on the chair sat an old man. Right on the runway. Mieczýslaw Senison. My assistants had managed the impossible. They had brought the eighty-five-year-old from Gliwice to the capital. He had agreed to everything: he just wanted to see Pizier again and then die.
The old man stirred in his chair. Then he pulled himself together, awkwardly clicked his heels, and saluted. As in the old days when he was still able to fight. And suddenly a man ran up to him. A lunatic. A screaming apparition shouting, “Senison, Senison!” Pizier stopped a few feet from the man he had believed dead. He apparently did not trust his senses and drew out his pocket knife. He cut into his upper arm, which immediately started bleeding. Pizier laughed, his face contorted with pain, and shrieked, “Where am I, my friend?”
“En Pologne, mon ami. In Poland.”
Pizier sobbed and approached the old man. He reached out his hand and felt the other, in order finally to be sure. “Are you Senison?”
“Mieczýslaw Senison of L’vov. And you?”
“André Pizier of Paris.”
Now those around him heard the professor sing the “Marseillaise.” They saw tears running down the cheeks of both men. Then they were silent—until Pizier embraced his friend and whispered, “La guerre est finie. At last. The war has ended, my friend.”