I have spent two days watching with fascintion the initial stages
of the 2013 Tour de France, Almost every road, every city, every aspect of Corsica's incredible landscape shown on the Tour
appears in my new novel MOTHER TONGUE. I would like to share passages
from the novel that include those locations which many of you may have seen on the Tour.
Stage 1 of the Tour began in Porto Vecchio, a seaside town on the southeastern tip of the island. This is where one of the FLNC attacks takes
place in the novel.
Liz stared at a shot panning across a row of cots covered
with plaster dust and hundreds of bullet holes in the walls behind them. The news announcer said there had been three simultaneous
attacks just after dawn, almost at the very moment LeClerc had been driving up Cap Corse. Speculation was that they were in
retaliation for earlier police raids in Balange. The first video was of an attack on a police barracks in Porto Vecchio. It
had been strafed right after a platoon of police trainees had left the building for breakfast.
From its start in Porto
Vecchio, the Tour route took a dip south to Bonifacio.
This is where I had my own Corsican adventure at age 19, trying to sneak two Foreign Legionnaires off the island. And
where my main character was conceived. This is a snippet of a conversation she has with Philippe LeClerc, before he reveals
he is the head of R.A.I.D., the anti-terrorist force in Corsican.
Liz related some general details about her mother helping
a group of college kids try to liberate two Foreign Legionnaires from the island. Not until the words Bonifacio and summer
of ’63 did he respond. “Incroyable! My father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the 2me Étranger du Parachutists,
the second airborne, of the Foreign Legion at that time. He was sent to Bonifacio after the exodus from Algeria in ‘62.”
“Do you think he could have been the
officer over the men my mother and her friends tried to sneak off the island?”
“Je ne sais pas,” said LeClerc.
Stage 1 ended in Bastia (amid a snafu with a bus getting caught under the finish line sign) and this is where
Liz meets an estranged cousin for the first time.
Liz went through the list and settled on two listings, one in a nearby village and one in Terra Vecchia, the old port
district of Bastia. No one answered at the home in the village, so after their brief conversation, she headed off on foot
to explore the one located in Bastia. She walked up the Boulevard du Général Graziani, past a flotilla of sidewalk
café tables sheltered under brightly colored umbrellas, and trekked on to Terra Vecchia. The ultra-modern shops of
downtown Bastia with their Parisian fashions soon gave way to shabby multi-story dwellings. She couldn’t decide if the
plaster hanging in ragged peels, exposing the lathe and even the plumbing underneath, was a sign of poverty or historic preservation.
Her ear caught the sound of laughter and conversation, in a mixture of French and Corsu, emerging from the Irregular pattern
of small windows dotting the upper stories.
Stage 2 of the Tour from Bastia to Ajaccio passed through Corte, the ancient capital of Corsica and hotbead of separatist activity where much of the
action in the novel takes place. My daughter and I visited there in 2006. This is a passage as Liz drives into the city for
the first time.
Within minutes she dropped down into a valley and entered the outskirts of Corte with its modern, multi-story buildings. As
she neared the turnoff to the university, she slowed to navigate a roundabout and caught her first glimpse of the Corte’s
Citadelle. The ochre fortress rode atop a hunk of rock that soared hundreds of feet above the valley floor, casting a long
summer-evening shadow across the landscape and almost wrapping its dusky fingers around her car.