1914: The start of a world war sees the death of a celebrated writer

1914: The start of a world war sees the death of a celebrated writer
By Euronews
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A hundred years ago, at the beginning of World War I, French writer Charles Péguy was shot dead by a German bullet. He left behind a pregnant wife and three children, as well as a rich portfolio of work showing surprising modernity of thought.

Euronews journalist Olivier Péguy is his great grandson. Here he gives an insight into the the writer, his career and his legacy.

As well as being a famous writer, Charles Péguy was a polemicist, socialist, dreyfusard and a poet.

He was a creative man, who joined up because he believed that waging war was the path to peace. “I leave a soldier of the Republic (of France), to fight for general disarmament, for the war to end all wars,” the reserve lieutenant would say until the end of his life.

When the war broke out, Péguy and his family were living in Bourg-la-Reine, just south of Paris. He managed and [produced a twice-monthly journal called Fortnightly Review, which he also wrote for, edited and published. He published his own work, but also the work of others such as Ludovic Halévy, Georges Sorel, Romain Rolland and Julien Benda.

In August 1914, at the age of 41, Péguy and millions of other French men answered the call to join the armed forces. He said farewell to his family and joined his unit. With his comrades in arms he witnessed the movement of troops on the eastern border of France and faced the advancing German troops head on.

By early September the French troops were preparing a counter-offensive, now known as the First Battle of the Marne, which took place approximately 64 kilometres from Paris.

On the afternoon of September 5, 1914, Reserve Lieutenant Péguy ordered his men to shoot during fighting near to the town of Villeroy. He was subsequently killed by an enemy bullet to the head.

Péguy was buried alongside dozens of his fellow fallen soldiers, in a large tomb in the middle of the battlefield.

Every year, a memorial service is held at the site. Members of his family attend as well as members of Charles Péguy Friendship, a literary association, which keeps the memory of the writer alive.

The ceremony will be of particular significance in this centenary year.

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