Tag Archives: France

Oradour-sur-Glane

The atmosphere here is heavy. The visitors in their tourist uniforms, cameras in hand, zig zag down this street pausing to peer inside each building. A car dissolving into the ground. A wall clock with its workings rusted and exposed. Cooking pots, prams and sewing machines. The detritus of people’s lives slowly rotting where it stood. And in between, incongruously, mown verges and an uncanny neatness indicate the status of a museum.

A minimal amount of information is given, leaving us to construct our own imaginary tableaux of what happened here, inside each house, each shop, inside the church.

As far as memorials go, this one envelops you. It is overwhelming. Who was it that had the presence of mind to say ‘leave it as it is’? Not to move anything? It is not an interpretation of an event, a constructed object to stand in front of and contemplate, but rather the remains of the event itself. And by default we are all in it, in the streets, in this place…implicated.

Nearby is the new village, rebuilt after the war looking down on the untouched remains of what was here before. And I start to wonder what it would be like if every place where an atrocity had happened was abandoned, with life rebuilt alongside. How crowded the world would be…cities nestling together, sometimes in triplicate. Gleaming churches butted up against burnt out originals. Streets that no longer follow a linear pattern as replacement houses are jammed into available spaces. New forests planted alongside old. On and on, until in no time at all, we will have run out of space, crowded out by memories and the dead.

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