every now and then i feel like i am pushing the envelope on the violence, though i chose the time specifically for its violence, its ease with violence. so it is at once discomforting and reassuring to come across excerpts like this. many thanks to george mason for posting this as part of their excellent site on the revolution.
“I arose, distressed by the horror. The night had not refreshed me at all, rather it had caused my blood to boil. . . . I go out and listen. I follow groups of people running to see the ‘disasters’—their word for it. Passing in front of the Conciergerie, I see a killer who I’m told is a sailor from Marseilles. His wrist is swollen from use. I pass by. Dead bodies are piled high in front of the Châtelet. I start to flee, but I follow the people instead. I come to the rue St.-Antoine, at the end of the rue des Ballets, just as a poor wretch came through the gate. He had seen how they killed his predecessor, but instead of stopping in amazement, he took to his heels to escape. A man who was not one of the killers, just one of those unthinking machines who are so common, stopped him with a pike in the stomach. The poor soul was caught by his pursuers and slaughtered. The man with the pike coldly said to us, ‘Well, I didn’t know they wanted to kill him. . . .’
“There had been a pause in the murders. Something was going on inside. . . . I told myself that it was over at last. Finally, I saw a woman appear, as white as a sheet, being helped by a turnkey. They said to her harshly: ‘Shout ‘Vive la nation!” ‘No! No!’ she said. They made her climb up on a pile of corpses. One of the killers grabbed the turnkey and pushed him away. ‘Oh!’ exclaimed the ill-fated woman, ‘do not harm him!’ They repeated that she must shout ‘Vive la nation!’ With disdain, she refused. Then one of the killers grabbed her, tore away her dress, and ripped open her stomach. She fell, and was finished off by the others. Never could I have imagined such horror. I wanted to run, but my legs gave way. I fainted. When I came to, I saw the bloody head. Someone told me they were going to wash it, curl its hair, stick it on the end of a pike, and carry it past the windows of the Temple. What pointless cruelty! . . .”
-from Restif de la Bretonne’s Les nuits de Paris