We’ve recently returned from a unique French book fair that takes place on the 1st of May every year in Pas de Calais’ capital, Arras. It’s the second time we’ve been invited, this time on the strength of the French edition of The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia; Louise Michel La Vierge Rouge. We were signing copies for several hours in one of the publishers’ marquees in the Grand’Place, one of the two large cobbled squares in the city centre. The other, the Place des Héros, is overlooked by their fine city hall, its distinctive belfry housing a carillon that rings out prettily every half an hour.
Another BD guest who was kept busy in there was Julie Minoh. She’s the creator of the award-winning Le bleu est une couleur chaude (the English title is Blue is the warmest colour, presumably after the film, though it first appeared as Blue Angel).
A couple of days previously, we’d been signing at the Librairie les lisières, an independent bookshop in nearby Roubaix. We we were also interviewed there about Louise Michel La Vierge Rouge. Afterwards we were taken to see a column close by with a likeness of Louise Michel on it. She’s represented mourning the passing of Louise Auguste Blanqui, the French socialist, revolutionary theorist and activist, who was a major influence on her. Below is an illustration from a 1881 newspaper, possibly American, purporting to show her delivering an oration at his funeral. She may well have done so. The only other mention of it that I’ve been able to find is a similar illustration from Le Monde Illustré, located in the Musée de l’histoire vivante in Montreuil, Paris (thanks to my cousin Martin Crookston for directing me to it).