Shhh

Free Shhh by Raymond Federman

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Authors: Raymond Federman
Tags: Fiction, General, Shhh
that’s where I found it after the war when I returned to Montrouge from the farm.
    I took these old papers and photos with me when I left for America, and also the savings account booklet thinking that it would be a nice souvenir from my school days in Montrouge.
    It didn’t occur to me then, in 1947, to try and collect that money.
    Eleven years later, when I returned to France for the first time, thinking that perhaps I would remain there, and never go back to America, I took all the old papers and photos with me, as well as the savings account booklet.
    I had not done very well in America. I was almost thirty years old and still a student. I wanted to finish my studies, but especially the novel I had started writing. A novel that has remained unfinished and which will never be published. Une oeuvre de jeunessse, even if I was no longer a young man when I was writing it. The book was called And I Followed my Shadow. I wrote it in English. I was relating in a sentimental and disorganized fashion what had happened to me during the
    war. But to tell the truth, I had no idea as to how one writes a novel. Still, I wanted to finish it, and I thought that if I returned to France I could perhaps recall better what had happened.
    So, before leaving Los Angeles where I was studying at UCLA, I sold all my things, my bicycle, most of my books, my jazz records, even some of my clothes, and I bought a plane ticket.
With my knowledge of the English language I was sure that I would be able to get some kind of job in Paris where I would finish my novel.
    Well, no need to go on with what happened, and why I went back to Los Angeles after a few months. That return to France was a total disaster. I told all that in Aunt Rachel’s Fur.
    But I must tell you the story of the saving’s account. I am in Paris for three weeks already, but no job. Nothing. No one wants to hire me. I am told that knowledge of English does not suffice. One must have experience. And me, I had no experience, except as a factory worker, or a waiter, or a dishwasher, and a dozen other pitiful jobs which I had done before being called into the army and sent to Korea to fight the war for America. So here I am, totally broke, and not the right kind of experience.
    It was then that I remembered that savings account booklet. Why not try to collect the money, I told myself. After more than twenty years these hundred old francs must have accumulated some interest. And besides, now I am majeur.
    So I go to the Montrouge Savings Bank. I show the booklet to the lady at the information desk. She looks puzzled. Finally she says to me, Well, you know Sir, this booklet dates back to before the war. I don’t think it’s still valid. In any case, all the archives of those years are now in the main office of the Paris Savings Bank, Rue Vaugirard in the Quinzième Arrondissement. Perhaps if you go there, they might be able to help you.
    So, I said to myself, why not try? What do I have to lose?
    Here I am at the main office of the Paris Savings Bank. I show my booklet to the lady at the information desk. The same puzzled look.
    After examining the booklet from all sides, she tells me with a motion of the head that seems to indicate that there isn’t much hope for me to collect this money, that I must go up to the archives on the third floor, and that perhaps there I can find out if I can be payed.
    I am now on the third floor in a large somber and dusty hall. An older man wearing a grey tablier, with a pencil over his ear, and a number of other pencils sticking out of the chest pocket of his long jacket-like-apron, greets me. He looks like the typical rond-de-cuir. The perfect bureaucrat. After I explain why I am here, he examines the booklet suspiciously. He shrugs his shoulders as if to say, What can I do?
    Finally he asks, How old were you when you received this booklet?
    Oh, I cannot really remember, I reply. Isn’t there a date in the booklet?
    Once

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