The elderly woman was French. I met her at a literature lecture. She asked to see me after the setting. I thought, “Oh no, she’s going to get on me about something horrible I wrote about in one of my books.” The group was small. It wasn’t a large sitting. So after the setting I stayed because she told me to. After the setting and only she and I was left she told me the name “BuFaye” was French. I thanked her for clarifying it but of course I already knew that.
She handed me a book saying, “Vous pouvez peut-être l’utiliser pour créer des scènes dans certains de vos travaux.” meaning “Perhaps you can use it to create some scenes in some of your work.”
It was written in English, but I didn’t recognize the name.
“That’s my maiden name.” She replied when I asked who wrote it.
The publishing date was 1947. She explained she was in Paris during the Nazi occupation Paris in 1940-1944. She met an American GI, fell in love with him and married him. But she recorded the years of occupation in a personal book her husband had published for her. And this was the book. The book recorded her life from age 16 in 1940 to age 20 in 1944.
I couldn’t help but ask her why she picked me out of the nine of us in public lecture setting?
“I have read one of your books and sometime I read your book blog. I’m 94 years old and nothing much impresses me anymore. Everything is a copy of the previous person. No one has any originality anymore. You have a long way to go but your fearless gut will take you that long way you have to go. You will get there. Mark my word. You reminds me of Gabrielle Chanel, I didn’t know her personally but my mother and grandmother did. I had seen her a few times when she was trying to get food and rations in to those in her neighborhood but I didn’t know her for she was older than myself. You write with gusto from the heart and that’s what it’s going to take to make it in the literary world. I’m quoting Gabrielle, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”. You march to your own drumbeat. I like that in life and in a writer. That’s the only way to survive. Nowadays everyone is so busy copying each other idea until no one knows what literature truly is. The reason I don’t like the copycat mentality so popular today is because during German occupation they did their damnest best to snuff out all creativity. Everyone had be just alike or you were rounded up and shot.”
(I swear she doesn’t look 93 and I told her so. If I live that long I hope to be able to get around that well.)
I had to think back on what was Co Co Chanel’s read name. When I realized that who she was talking about I was uttermost flattered.
I am humbled she entrusted me with her book. As far as I know, this is the only copy in the world. I have been reading it since Monday and have to return it to her this coming Tuesday. But it’s a fascinating story. My life has been a leisure in comparison to hers. It’s not for the timid at heart. I feel like I am reading the “real” Casablanca with the night life, clubs, singers I’ve never heard of and the meretricious patrolling of the streets, suicide bombing, public street hangings, home searches, and invasions. People being shot and killed because they don’t look ‘right’. It’s sounds a lot like what’s going on now in America.
Oh! She had a bunch of choicey words for our generation. She called us a bunch of chattes, (I have no idea what that is) crybabies, wimps, dollie heads (I have no idea what that is) who think freedom we enjoy was won by what you didn’t want to do. That life is some pretty package with a shiny bow on top.
I accepted the project to convert what I read into a fictional novel because I am honored she selected me.