Obviously my creativity must have come from somewhere? And I suspect it is hereditary, for as long as I can remember, mum has always been a writer of poetry and novels.
Mum had once told me of her uncle Louis who had been a poet and journalist, but who had died several years before she had been born. It was due to his widely celebrated status that influenced her to try and follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War II was to disrupt her ambitions.
Her uncle, Louis Fleri, was born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1882. Growing up, he had a totally French education, and by 1903, he was already an accomplished writer in that language having had several of his poems published in an anthology entitled “Les Émois Factices”. This was followed in 1904 with a further anthology entitled “Le Livre d’Elvire”.
Other than his poetry, he was employed as a copy editor for a literary newspaper known as the “NOUVELLE REVUE D’ÉGYPTE” in which he also participated as a book reviewer.
In 1905 it seems his attention shifted to international political affairs, principally a crisis which was developing in India. Whether he had traveled there to experience the rising troubles first hand is unknown, but his comprehensive report entitled “L’INDE D’AUJOURD’HUI” [India of Today] published in August of that year in “LA REVUE INTERNATIONALE D’ÉGYPTE” is informative and precise.
All of Louis’ poems are in French, but I was able to find one written in English that had been published in August 1905.
I hear the silent hands closing the latest door
and the returning step is so moving before
that our night is darker and our heart is dead.
I feel the sleepy eyes closing my latest dream
and its deceitful fate can never be redeemed
so that the night is darker and our heart is dead.
But Thee! Remove the twisting hands from the dream denied
I’ll stand crying for life and light in force and pride
even if the Night ‘s darker and our Heart be dead.
One can only wonder why he wrote such disturbing words…
It’s not known if Louis served during World War I, but the British Forces War Records for Commonwealth Military personnel shows an L Fleri, service number 1051, who served as a Gunner during 1914 and 1915 in the Royal Malta Artillery.
In 1918 an influenza pandemic swept the globe claiming the lives of some 50 million people worldwide. Louis was among their number. He was just 36 years old.
With his passing and the passing of other relatives after him, Louis’ accomplishments had been forgotten, or at least until early January 2019.
One hundred years after his death his works of poetry have been reawakened.
I was contacted by a professor of French Literature at the University of Malta who had been told by an organisation based in Switzerland; a cultural and recreational society consisting of people who have lived or still live in Alexandria, that my mother was related to Louis Fleri. The professor was searching for copies of Louis’ anthologies and hoped my mother would have them.
Fortunately for him, mum had copied all the poems, free-hand, into an exercise book when she was seventeen years old.
Needless to say, he was more than pleased when I scanned them all to him.
Since then I have received a great deal more information regarding my grand-uncle from a professor of French Literature at the University of Nantes, in France, and also from an official at the Centre of Historical Studies of Alexandria.
I am pleased, if not a little proud, for Louis Fleri, that even after 100 years since his death his writings are still being read and discussed among students of literature and, perhaps through them, Louis’ poetry and other accomplishments will live on.
1882 – 1918
Poet, Writer, Journalist
RLB – Tomewriter