The Story of My Life so Far - Part 21 - May 1968 in Paris

in story •  2 years ago  (edited)

This is the story of my life so far: 67 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France

The story starts here
Previous episode: Part 20

May 1968 in Paris

May 1968 was a period of civil unrest in France, particularly in Paris, the capital.
After months of conflicts between students and authorities in one university in Nanterre near Paris, the problems escalated at the beginning of May and resulted in big demonstrations. The trade unions called for a general strike, and France was almost completely paralyzed for several weeks.

It is Forbidden to Forbid: one of slogans in May 68

As I was still going to Lycée Saint-Louis, who is in the Latin Quarter where many demonstrations took place, I was a witness to this events.

May 68 demonstration

However, in May 1968, I had to write the two competitions to enter École Polytechnique et École Navale.

In the competition for École Polytechnique there were several tests in math, physics, chemistry, French, English. There was also a test of "artistic drawing" (dessin d'art). The subject of this test was to draw a baluster was known several months in advance. It had been proposed by my drawing teacher in Lycée Saint-Louis, and I had been drawing it for months. So, I was quite confident that i would do a decent job, although I am not good at drawing.

Because of all the strikes during the month of May 1968, public transportation was quite perturbed. I had to take a bus, then the subway. Near the bus stop, there were a café with a oinball machine, that I like to play. I forgot the time and I miss the first bus playing the pinball machine. When I finally arrived at the place for the drawing test, I was seven minutes late. The regulation was that nobody was admitted in the room after the test was started, so I was unable to take the test. And, because I had not taken the test, I was no longer qualified for the competition: I would not be admitted to the École Polytechnique.

I was desperate, because I thought I had a good chance. I wanted to try again the next year.
Mu father, Paul, represented to me that my goal was to become a Navy officer, and I could do that going to École Navale. Of course, I knew that, but I still wanted to know if I could be admitted to the École Polytechnique.

I asked counsel to various people and I reluctantly agreed with my father. I could have sabotaged the competition to École Navale, but I would not have been proud of myself.

I ended up to be admitted 29th out of 75 cadets and In September 1968, I took the train to Brest to start École Navale in Lanvéoc.

Continue to Part 22

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Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4
Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8
Part 9 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12
Part 13 - Part 14 - Part 15 - Part 16
Part 17 - Part 18 - Part 19 - Part 20

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Your story is very interesting! I just was born in 1968 :) Thank you @vcelier for the experience!


Thank you, and you are welcome.


I would have missed the bus too if I were there
it's always fun to play pinball specially the machine
btw thank you for your supports!


As usual: you are welcome.

A great user of words. Followed.


Thank you.



Very interesting: I'm starting back at part 1 but had to read this because it's most recent. Could you elaborate a bit on "It is Forbidden to Forbid"? What was the main idea behind these slogans? Who was putting them up?


The May 68 unrest in France was similar to similar unrest in the US: young baby boomers were frustrated to be living in a society that they saw as hidebound, rigid and looking at the past (only 23 years after WWII) instead of to the future. They wanted more freedom.
"Il est interdit d'interdire" was a way to ask for more freedom.

Thank you very much for sharing your story !!


You are welcome.