Après nous le déluge

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"Après nous, le déluge" (pronounced [apʁɛ nu lə delyʒ]; meaning "After us, the flood") is a French expression, attributed to Madame de Pompadour, the lover of King Louis XV of France.[1]

An alternative form, attributed to Louis himself, is "Après moi, le déluge" ("After me, the flood"). This saying is believed to date from after the Battle of Rossbach in 1757, which was disastrous for the French.[2] There are two possible interpretations: "After my reign, the nation will be plunged into chaos and destruction”; or "After me, let the deluge come", meaning that he does not care what happens after his death.[3] The second corresponds to the meaning of "Après nous, le déluge" taken by Brewer: "Ruin, if you like, when we are dead and gone."[4]

Karl Marx wrote in Das Kapital (Vol. 1, Part III, Chapter Ten, Section 5) "Après moi, le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and of every capitalist nation. Hence Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer, unless under compulsion from society."[5]

During the trial of Dimitri Fyodorovich Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky, the prosecution uses the phrase to describe the defendant’s reprobate father and to lament the deterioration of Russian values more generally.

In his writings of the 1920s, D. H. Lawrence uses the expression a number of times, calling it "the tacit utterance of every man", in his "crisis" of unbearable "loneliness ... surrounded by nullity".[6] But "you mustn't expect it to wait for your convenience," he warns the dissolute "younger generation";[7] "the real deluge lies just ahead of us".[8]

"Après moi le déluge" was adopted as the motto of the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron, which carried out the "Dambuster" raids on German dams in the Ruhr region on the night of 16–17 May 1943.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "après nous le déluge" in "Oxford Dictionaries".
  2. ^ "The Routledge Dictionary of Cultural References in Modern French". p. 43.
  3. ^ Laguna, Gabriel (13 January 2006). "The Expression 'Après moi le déluge', and Its Classical Antecedents". Tradición Clásica.[self-published source]
  4. ^ "Déluge" in E. Cobham Brewer, "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898)".
  5. ^ Das Kapital, Chapter 10
  6. ^ "The Crown", IV (1925) in Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p280.
  7. ^ "Latter-Day sinners" from Pansies (1928) in Poems, Volume 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), p461.
  8. ^ "The Memoires of Duc de Lauzun", Version 1 (1926) in Introductions and Reviews (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), p91. Lawrence also uses the phrase in "Whitman" (1923), calling it "the soul's last shout and shriek, on the confines of death", Studies in Classic American Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p155.