The perils of pencils

It’s been impossible not to follow and mourn the crisis in Paris. The attacks have compelled as much attention as the events of 9/11, when we were glued, worldwide, to television and Internet reports.

The crisis also brought to mind the violence in Paris emerging from the Algerian struggle for independence in the early sixties: on the one hand, the right-wing O.A.S. bombings of Sartre’s apartment; on the other, the massacre that took place October 17, 1961, of a large―and still debated number–of pro-Algeria demonstrators among the French, some of whom died being thrown into the Seine, after having been beaten by police.

I was living in Paris then, a politically unconscious twenty-year old, dimly aware of what was happening around me, but too self-absorbed to draw meaning from the history I was living, the bodies in the river.

by Ruben L. Oppenheimer, Image from twitter, @RLOppenheimer

by Ruben L. Oppenheimer, Image from twitter, @RLOppenheimer

Among the cartoons that have flourished since the attack on the artists of Charlie Hebdo, one stands out for me as linking the contemporary Paris horror to 9/11 in mute perfection: the drawing by Dutch cartoonist Ruben L. Oppenheimer. The image has also been circulated on Twitter. I want to share it here in solidarity with and admiration for all who cherish their pencils―at any cost.