Thursday, 9 November 2017

Rimbaud returns to Cyprus

Interesting this new French school in Nicosia. No doubt it’s intended to rival the English School, which is traditionally where most of the Cypriot elite have sent their children for secondary education and was established in 1900 with the specific purpose of producing a class of Anglicised Cypriots better able to help Britain maintain colonial rule over the island. To a large extent, the English School, 50 years after Cyprus won its independence, still performs that function. The three poles of influence in modern Cyprus have been the British, the Greek Orthodox Church and AKEL, the Cyprus communist party. But now the French – as part of a wider strategy to re-assert themselves in the Eastern Mediterranean – are looking for a slice of the Cypriot pitta. Interestingly, President Christofias, who wouldn’t know Paris from Phnom Penh, has been instrumental in getting the proposed French School off the ground, presumably because he sees it as impinging on British influence on the island.

And the name of new French school is going to be the ‘Arthur Rimbaud’. I’ve written about the great French poet’s connections to Cyprus before. The greatest outlaw and misfit – anarchist, if you like – in modern literature is a strange person to name a school for elite Cypriot kids after; but if there is going to be a French school on the island – and, personally, I don’t know what’s wrong with Greek paideia – one who wrote the following lines, from A Season in Hell, is allright by me:

If only I had a link to some point in the history of France!

But instead, nothing.

I am well aware that I have always been of an inferior race. I cannot understand revolt. My race has never risen, except to plunder; to devour like wolves a beast they did not kill.

I remember the history of France, the Eldest Daughter of the Church. I would have gone, a village serf, crusading to the Holy Land; my head is full of roads in the Swabian plains, of the sight of Byzantium, of the ramparts of Jerusalem; the cult of Mary, the pitiful thought of Christ crucified, turns in my head with a thousand profane enchantments-- I sit like a leper among broken pots and nettles, at the foot of a wall eaten away by the sun. --And later, a wandering mercenary, I would have bivouacked under German nighttimes.