Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Three decades ago in Paris

At 8 o'clock in the evening on 10 May 1981, this is the TV image that informed us that the new president of the Fifth Republic was a Socialist, François Mitterrand.

Revelers soon took over the Place de la Bastille in Paris. Here is one of the rare surviving photos of that wonderful evening:

I myself was lost in the middle of that huge throng. People flocked there spontaneously. Ever since the French Revolution in 1789, it has been a sacred spot for the People of the Left. It was an astonishing evening. People found it hard to realize that Mitterrand, who had been defeated in several presidential elections, was finally victorious. During those first few hours, nobody worried too much about possible political problems that might lie ahead. The citizens merely bathed in the euphoria of their momentous electoral victory.

The celebrations at the Bastille took the form of an impromptu evening of singing and dancing. There was a makeshift stage on which various singers and other celebrities appeared from time to time. In a way, I think that everybody was half-expecting that Mitterrand himself would soon be there in front of us, in the warm air of a May evening in Paris. Instead, we were greeted with thunder, lightning and a deluge of rain. God Himself had dropped in on us, to join in the victory celebrations.

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