DAYS OF OUR YEARS By Pierre Van Passen. The Days of Our Years is the life story of a professional foreign correspondent whose collegues among the war correspondentsgive him the higtrest reputation for accuracy of statement and reliable authenticity. In a larger and more literal sense, this book is the biography of a generation as reflected in the life of one man n'hose profession placed him wherever history rvas being made; in France, Germany, Morocco, Syria, Palestine, Ethiopa and Spain. IIis experiencesare intimately described. Upon leaving for Europe, no restrictions were placed on Mr. Van Passen's movements. Itr. Ralph Pulitzer had given him letters of introduction to the wor'ld's cor-respondentsin Paris, Rome, London, Moscow, asking them to place the facilities of the bureaus under their direction at his disposal whenever he made an appearancein their cities. He did not have to send spot news except on occasions when he would be definitely assigned to cover events as happened later in the case of Arabic uprising in Palestine in 1929, the British elections a year later and other incidents, his real job, he says, \\ras to complement the factual dispatches sent by the regular correspondents with a marginal story of background-milieu, and, above all. the "hurnan interest" element. Also he wrote a daily column "Worlds' Windou"' for the editorial page of the E,"-ewingWodd, and other American ner,vspaperssuch as LineAlbany Kn'ickerbocker Press, The Atlanta Constitution, The Bo-oton Globe, The Syracuse Heralcl, Tlte Pittsburgh Sun. "That column was chiefly composed of what the European journalists call "Kaffe-Klatsch",. He followed no definite line of thought, not even liberal. "A scrap of conversation rvith a prime. minister or a peasant, the election of a Gypsi King, a sunset over the Zuider Zee, tlne execution of a bandit on a Guillotine, a service in Rome's St. Peter's, anecdotesabout the great, the famous, the renor'vned and the notorious, such were the usual contents and now since he could not afford to be excluded from a single European country with so general an assignment, it was to his interest to remain on the
good side of ali the nascentcensorshipsin Europe. Hence niany things he inrzestigated or saw remained unreported. For example, in 1928, Mr. Van Passen accompaniedHenry Barbusse on a trip of investigation in the Balkans, where he had gone to study the methods of the reactionary governments of Rumania and Bulgaria in suppressing popuiar movements. Twelve thousand peasants and workers had been slain in Bulgaria alone that year. "I could not send out a word. The police dogged our every footstep. After spending a day wandering around in the subterranean cavesof the Doftana Prison of Bucharest, rvatching people, ioaded down with chains, many of them reduced to hysterically idiotic skeletons, there was nothing that could be sent out but a yarn about the daring fashions worn by the rvomen in the night clubs on the Calea Victoriei. That was the stuff expected of me-nothing more. Notdelving into social conditions, no dishing up of unappetizing details about terrorism." "The managing editor, Mr. John Tennant, warned me more than once that I had not been sent over on a crusading rriission. He added, moreover, that there was no confirmation from any reliable sollrceon that horrible businessin Bulgaria. The local agency correspondents had not sent a word. So, I too, remained silent." Mr. Van Passen's earnest questioning mind finds plenty of unanswerable questions, but at least he has rvritten some anslvers that leave his readers with a more understanding outlook upon a r,vorldsituation which to some of us, seemslacking in all logic. In fact he tells us, "History is not a chain of events follor,ving each other in logical sequence. At every turn one flnds mysterious and inexplicable incidents, not the result of hazard or personal initiative, and which seem to be injected by the creative force of spiritual currents." There are a great many unpredictables and unforeseenables. Precisely because there is violence and oppression and hatred, there is a divine order and not chaos. Effect follows cause with inexorable accuracy: It is a comforting thought that one who has known the worst of life may still hope for, and believe in the best, and that "Out of Man's dissatisfaction and longing, new worlds are born."-S ally Rouan Pease.
Published on May 8, 2010
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