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Sunday, April 9, 2017

On the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, read . . .

I took this photo in 2009.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a battle very significant in Canadian history.  There are any number of non-fiction books about the battle; the only one with which I am familiar is Vimy by Pierre Berton.  I will let others recommend scholarly works.

I know much more about fiction, and the novel that comes to mind is The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart.  The book is not about Vimy but part of it deals with Walter Allward’s ambitious plans for a war memorial at Vimy, France, honouring the Canadian men who lost their lives in the Great War.  It is at the foot of this monument that events come together in the novel’s climactic moments. 
I love the last paragraph of the book:  “And so the impossible happens as a result of whims that turn into obsessions.  A priest is struck by the light in an unexpected valley, a king requires rainbow machines, on the one hand, and a belief in the magic of distant landscapes, on the other.  A Canadian man dreams the stone that will be assembled and carved to expiate the sorrow of one country on the soil of another.  The men in the counting houses of government rage against the expense, preferring to hoard their coins for the machinery of war.  And still the beautiful stone walls rise in barely accessible, elevated places.  Heartbreaking operas are written and performed in various private and public rooms.  Mass is celebrated.  And the windows and statues and towers are maintained longer than you might think, in the face of autumn’s bitter winds and winter’s frantic storms.  If you stand in certain parts of the valley you can see them shine.  A clear flash of silver or alabaster in daytime, lit by a rich inner fire, or reflected moonlight at night, they disperse light and strength and consolation long after the noise of the battle has ended, and all of the warriors have gone home” (390).