thatâs 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 didnât 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 Rachelâs Fur.
But I must tell you the story of the savingâs 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 donât think itâs 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 QuinziÃ¨me 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 isnât 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. Isnât there a date in the booklet?