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"Reinforcing the European imagination" contribution by Camille Delache

While the European ballot is coming closer, the fear is feeding the debates. Political distrust, open-calls to boycott everywhere, progress in the polls of the political parties that are challenging Europe … but for what are we going to vote? For most of us, it is only an ephemeral moment of the political life, sometimes to punish or to assert our convictions. Communication will be in charge of making us forget what happened. For others, it is time to take up again with the “long time” of the European history, in which Europe is a harmonious concept carried out by our intellects and artists.

Stop to the political ephemeral moment, come back to the Europe of the artists and the imagination.

Europe, long-lasting cultural space

The dream for Europe did not appear only by economic or politic needs. It has grown under artists’ pen who lived in Europe during the war, but also during the Europe of journeys and of cultural sharing. They saw in this project a wonderful exchange and enrichment lever.

Erasmus of Rotterdam is the first strong supporter of the “Republic of Letters” and the “Europe of Peace”. Later, Victor Hugo claimed the creation of the United States of Europe. Iconic figures among others, they lived and built the European dream. It draws the lines of the European identity. As Stephan Zweig says in his Erasmus’ biography:“The European’s mission is to always insist on what actually links and unifies peoples, and to affirm the predominance of the European on the national”.

More recently, Chaillot’s call during the first European forum of culture was redrawing the lines of the dream that went through the ages:

“For centuries, our continent has been a land of creation, where creativity, diversity and originality are thriving. But today, there’s a doubt: is everything made in order to keep Europe as this land of freedom and vitality of creation? […] Culture in Europe is strong thanks to its differences and its expressions & languages’ diversity.”

Asking if the Europe of culture still exists and how his binder persists simply means coming back to the roots of this ideal that find itself in the long term. Of course, the confrontation of this ideal to reality isn’t an easy thing, but do we have to deny it by voting for its opposite?

Stephan Zweig, the love of Europe: find fresh the “yesterday’s world”.

“In the darkest days of the European upheaval, when everything seemed to be destroyed, it is in Stephan Zweig that was embodied the unfailing faith in the European intellectual community, the great Friendship of Spirit, which knows no frontier.”

Romain Rolland

Born in Austria, Stefan Zweig lived in Paris, Berlin, London and Brussels, and travelled through Europe to create plays, give conferences, and share with the intelligentsia of the time… In short, it gave life again to the “Republic of the Letters”. Accused of being a “bourgeois” far from the realities by some of his successors, particularly by Hannah Arendt, he remains the ambassador of a “certain idea” of Europe, which must be defended nowadays against the media and civic disenchantment.

Stefan Zweig was militating for the paneuropean” ideals, the principle of peace and the harmony between the nations and their countrymen, in the name of the exchanges that he had fed himselfHe sums up this vision in “The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European.” 

WWI marks a first deception, which arouses his doubt of seeing this Europe affirms itself and carry on. His love for Europe is betrayed a second time by Hitler’s accession to power, what made him leave the “Old continent” for the United States, then for Brazil. It is in Petropolis that he decided to end his days in 1942. He could not stand to see either the condition in which the world was, or the evolution of the situation in Europe, totally crushed by WWII. His last words summarize his nostalgia of Europe, destructive:

“The world, my own language is lost for me. My spiritual homeland, Europe, destroyed itself. Great strengths are needed at sixty years old to begin anew and mines are used up by years of wandering without any homeland. Thus, I think it is better to put an end, in time and my head-high, to a life for which the intellectual work has always represented the purest joy and the individual freedom, the supreme prosperity on this earth. I greet all of my friends! May they see again the lights of dawn after this long night! For my part, I am too impatient. I precede them.”

To those who feel disenchanted by Europe and politics, remember of this “world of yersterday”: a unified and open Europe, which is not scared. Go to the polls to make it come alive again, to leave a great part to the creative and imaginative Europe, and to find the European dream that we’ve lost.

Camille Delache, host of the blog “La Baguette Culturelle”

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