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This report is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

Letter from Paris Stephen Romer
Rumours from the street below, chants, cries, sirens penetrated even the lofty precincts of the British Institute staffroom late last year. Similar, I suspect, to most British Institute staffrooms the world over, the one in Paris is insulated from the outside world and manages to retain, let us say, something of the cosiness of an English seaside guest-house at tea time. (When the white-frocked medical students were up in arms some two years ago against the Savary reform, when the blue-clad CRS police were at work and the stinging hint of tear gas was in the air, one old-world colleague was heard to be muttering complaints at the changed format of the Daily Mail . . .) But the sheer size of these recent demonstrations, combined with the fact that the staffroom has a western porthole which overlooks the Esplanade des Invalides - the central massing point for students and lycéens - made them unignorable. At the very least they provided a 'conversation point' for language classes, and in fact the Institute is well-placed from that point of view; there is almost always some group of aggrieved persons, chanting or simply standing, whom one can enquire after.

27 November last year was in all ways an extraordinary day in Paris. It was a day of pervasive gold-grimy sunlight which bathed the grand boulevards and major axes of the capital down which the human phalanxes descended. At times the effects of the light were such it was as though someone ...


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