This is Not a Postcard
Postcard from Verdun, France
I know. I know. Printing newspapers hurts the environment. It isn’t economical, and besides, everybody reads the news online. (Well, those who choose to read it and not watch it along with Katie Couric’s diminishing audience.). By the time you receive your freshly printed tree killer, you are delightfully smearing your fingers with the ink that so boldly proclaims…old news. I am aware of these facts, and acknowledge their legitimacy. But I don’t care. For me, few joys can compare to sitting at my kitchen table over a slow breakfast with a tenderly folded (nay, lovingly tamed!) New York Times resting on the table beside my cereal. This joy only waxes when the cereal is replaced with pain au chocolat, the New York Times with Le Monde, and the table just happens to be in a petit café in France. From one of these joyful tables in Verdun, I send The Harvard Crimson this postcard. Yes, dear Internet reader, this is a “postcard,” but it in no way resembles the postcards I viewed earlier today.I had a half hour in which to explore the town only half aimlessly. Working for Let’s Go, one only rambles in hopes of finding something cool to include in the book. At 2 p.m. I was slated to board a tour bus to visit Verdun’s war memorials; more than 100,000 French soldiers and 100,000 German soldiers died here in 1916 during the disastrous, ten month long Battle of Verdun of WWI. I spotted a long string of tables along the Meuse River, and walked over to find about a kilometer of vendors (yes, I now think in the metric system) selling truly random and useless things to very excited crowds. Rusty skis from the 1980s sat alongside massive teddy bears, buckets of Dora the Explorer pins, countless musty books (my favorite: the biography of Jacques Chirac published in 1982), and a box full of ancient-looking, browned cartes postales. Mindlessly flipping through the postcards to see if there was something worth sending home, I discovered that these postcards had already been sent home. Unlike the overpriced-faux-war-era postcards sold throughout the rest of the town in gift shops and boulangeries, some of these postcards actually dated back before WWI (with the postage stamp to prove it). Many bore the fast, scrawled messages written from soldiers to their mothers, brothers and lovers, briefly, and hopefully, describing life on the front. I stood mesmerized, reading postcard after postcard. I struggled through, first, the messy, smudged handwriting, second, my mediocre to decent French reading skills, and third, my disbelief that people could express themselves so concisely and poignantly on the back of a four by six photograph. After a four-hour tour of several painfully evocative war monuments, holding those cheerful postcards from soldiers between my fingers made the Great War of nearly 100 years ago seem most present and terrifying. Whether it is yesterday’s unfinished newspaper still sitting on my kitchen table, or a postcard from a war years past, I like to touch my news, hear it crinkle, feel its weight in my hands. If I rub my computer screen so lovingly, it just gets dirty. So to sympathize with any of my Internet readers who also still love the paper half of the news, we can pretend that my article was written on the back of a real postcard, and let’s say the picture on the front was a war memorial statue. Then tilt your laptop to the size, fold the screen a bit, and pretend you are holding a newspaper: Cher Le Harvard Crimson, Hi! Having fun in France writing for Let’s Go! In Verdun today; lots of sad, moving WWI memorials. I discovered some old postcards written by soldiers during the war—pretty intense. Oh, and yes, I still love printed newspapers and wish you were (still) here (in print). Bisous, Aliza And to those who disagree; who don’t understand my adoration for the truly printed word; who believe the news is better in binary code: I’m sorry I wasted your time, but you can sate yourself with the fact that I didn’t waste any paper. Aliza H. Aufrichtig ’08, a Crimson editorial editor, is a literature concentrator in Mather House. On Sunday, a (paper) postcard from France, addressed to the Summer Postcard Editor, arrived at 14 Plympton Street.