34. The Memorial


WHILE THE DISAPPEARANCE OF the Swiss architect Patrice Maurras remains a mystery, many have attributed it to his state of professional disgrace. Perhaps out of a sense of genealogical atonement (he was the great-nephew of the collaborationist writer Charles Maurras), he had submitted an entry to an architectural competition held to select a design for a memorial marking the 75th anniversary of the Drancy internment camp in August 2016. His design was based around a concept that, at best, was audacious, at worst - at least in the eyes of many commentators - sacrilegious. His idea was to reconstitute the personal library of Adolf Hitler at the site of the camp. The Fuhrer’s favourite books would be made available to the public in the form of an open-air lending library, such as can be found in many cities today. Over time, the books, exposed to the elements through all seasons, would weather to such an extent that they would disintegrate naturally, and eventually disappear altogether. Thus, the memorial was intended to be at one and the same time a plea for tolerance and a prayer for the extinction of a whole muddled corpus of discredited ideas. This is not how the competition jury interpreted the submission, which was, to put it mildly, a miscalculation that was to have tragic consequences for the architect. Not only was his design not selected, Maurras learned from anonymous sources that the judges were so offended by his concept that he was unofficially blackbanned from all future commissions from all branches of the French government, and moreover the French ministry of culture would lobby to have him blackbanned from state commissions from any member of the European Union. Maurras subsequently fell into a deep depression, pleading his case to any professional colleague he came across, no matter how far removed from the corridors of state power, to such an extent that his fellow architects began to consider him unhinged and avoided him at all costs. At professional events such as openings, launches, seminars, colloquia and conferences he was often to be seen standing alone in a corner, drinking heavily and mumbling to himself, the object of contempt and derision by all others present in the room.