Monday, November 7, 2011


Adolphe Cassandre, 1935

I'm a little short on time at the moment, so I thought I'd try for a short post for a change. I ran across this word in an interesting way. I jumped in at the last minute to write something for Patty Abbott's flash fiction challenge, in which she offered to make a donation of five dollars to the work of Union Settlement for every flash fiction piece written about a painting by the artist Reginald Marsh. I liked the idea, and I liked the paintings. Peter Rozovsky did a very nice piece here, and so, though it was a bit of a slapdash affair, I did do the challenge at the last moment. You can read my story if you want, but frankly, I got more interested in the story of the S.S. Normandie than that of the human characters. I got a bit of that into my tale, but one interesting detail I omitted was that the Normandie was seized by the U.S. while it was in the New York harbor after France fell to the Germans under the right of angary, and planned to refit it as a warship, the U.S.S. Lafayette.

Angary? What was that when it was at home? Google wasn't particularly helpful, as it kept trying to turn my search into a search for Angry Birds. (Sometimes I feel the whole world is trying to turn my eyes in the direction of Angry Birds, even though I know that once I succumb to their stratagems, all is over.) But angary has nothing to do with Angry Birds, unless they turn out to be belligerents in a conflict. Angary is the right of a belligerent (though this is usually a government or something big like that) to seize the property of a neutral party or nation that happens to be on the belligerent's territory, to use it for the purpose of war, or to prevent its use by the enemy, including the property of the  citizens or subjects of the neutral state. Part of the deal is that the belligerent has to return the property and compensate the neutral party fairly for this when the war is over.

Hmm. Call me skeptical. I'm not sure that that worked out very well in the case of the Normandie...


  1. I forgot to say that I was really rather surprised to learn about the right of angary. Not so much with the Normandie, but with the general idea of the thing.

  2. I had to read it several times because I thought it had to be wrong and it meant seizing enemy assets. But no. You can take the stuff of the guy who's in the wrong place at the wrong time too, I guess.

    I mean, borrow.

  3. I confess my ignorance. What's the etymology of angary. A Cockney pronunucation of the study of hangars?
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  4. I knew I should have done the etymology. It comes from the Latin angaria and goes back to the Persian, where it was the designation of the royal courier service, and probably started out having to do with the impressment of horses. I found a nice little article about it, but I will have to post more later.