In 1887 on Royal Island in the penal colony of French Guiana, Director Vérignon visited the cells where the recalcitrant convicts were imprisoned. He came to a cell and one of the screws with him said, “Here’s Duval, the anarchist, a very dangerous man. He’s doing thirty days for stealing tobacco.”
Vérignon went to the door, stood in front of Duval and said, “There are no anarchists here, there are only convicts. If Duval behaves himself, he will earn the benevolence of the administration; but if he doesn’t, he and all the Duvals like him will bend to my will.”
Duval answered back that mindful men, such as he considered himself, were like glass – they might break, but they never bend.
This is much more than a historical document about the anarchist movement and the penal colony. It is a remarkable story of survival by one man’s self-determination, energy, courage, loyalty and hope. It was thanks to being true and faithful to his ideals that Duval survived that hell. And he encouraged others to do the same, through their deeds and not just their words. It is a call to action for mindful, conscious people to fight for their rights to the very end, to never give up or give in. “Therefore, comrades, if you act, rather make them kill you on the spot, cut off your head, but never go to the penal colony.”
More than just a story of a life or a testament of ideals, here is a monument to the human spirit and war cry for freedom and justice.
Translation by Michael Shreve Forthcoming on PM Press (with an Introduction by Marianne Enckell)
Tags: Clément Duval