Tuesday, March 30, 2010


This is my third post today. And it's not like I even had a boring day. What's worse - now, whoever is reading this is going to expect more from me! Starting tomorrow, I'm going back to one post per day, and I doubt many of my posts will include pictures like the ones today.

After my matzah adventure, I went to Père-Lachaise cemetery for my class. Just a reminder, we talk about how Paris affects literature and collective memory in general, so the professor told us that this cemetery was a good place to visit. Not only has it been mentioned in great French literature (and by that, of course I'm referring to that minimal Romeo and Juliette copycat scene in The Count of Monte Cristo!), but it also houses some great dead authors including, but not limited to: Oscar Wilde (British gay playwright, and author of The Picture of Dorian Gray), Molière (French comic playwright who wrote in French classical, "alexandrin" verse, and was recently portrayed on the big screen by Romain Duris who was also Alex in L'Arnacoeur!), La Fontaine (a French Aesop - he wrote Fables), and more. There are also other famous people dispersed throughout the cemetery. Abelard and Heloise are there. For those who don't know, they're the Romeo and Juliette of the French middle ages, but a little different. Abelard was Heloise's teacher, but obviously didn't pay attention to what her uncle told him to teach her. He ended up getting her pregnant, marrying her secretly, she had a baby named Astrolabe (how romantic?) and then the angry uncle paid some people to castrate Abelard while he was sleeping. Each lover then ended up in a religious institution studying and writing letters to each other because that was all they could possibly do. I read the letters last year in my history class. It's too bad that all the really intelligent people in Europe at that time (or at least the educated people) were all Christian - the brainwashing they got from the church tainted their brilliance, I think. It was the same with Saint Augustin - his confessions were okay until the conversion. Anyway, before I go on, here are some pictures.

Abelard and Heloise, in a pre-neogothic tomb


La Fontaine


Why are La Fonaine and Molière next to each other when they basically have nothing in common except the year of their birth? You got me. But here's a picture of some flowers! Spring has sprung!

So, then, we walked around some more and came across some Holocaust memorials, obelisks, and Oscar Wilde. We didn't find Proust, though. You know what that means - I absolutely have to go back!

A Holocaust memorial - disturbing, huh?

The inscription said "Famille Riche" (Rich Family). No duh! Anyone who can afford to be buried in this cemetery is obviously rich - or famous or something. 

Another Holocaust one

And another one.

Last Holocaust one, I promise

Oscar Wilde. The professor made a point of asking all of us Americans if we brought our lipstick. I'm guessing it's not French people who come to kiss this grave? Anyway, it's pretty disgusting...he's just another gay British writer. The Picture of Dorian Gray wasn't even that good. 

That's it for Père-Lachaise and pictures. But, afterward, I went to Porte de Versailles because there was an exposition on books! That's one thing I really really love about French people - not only do some of them write the best literature in the world, but people in this country really like to read. Everyone on the subway has books! They have iPod's too, but not as a substitute for the books. They even have their own Kindle-type thing they sell in the Gibert Jeune bookstores (it's called a Cybook). It's not as good as a Kindle, but you can buy way more foreign language books on it. They even sell a Nintendo DS game here that isn't really a game - it's just 100 classic books that you can read on the system. I think I'm going to buy it! I don't know how it is to read on a Nintendo DS, but why not? French people also really seem to enjoy theater, classical music, operas - they're very cultured. Now, I'm sure it's not everyone and that the people I've been spending time with aren't representative of the entire population of Paris, let alone the entire country, but it sure seems like there are a lot more French people who read than Americans. I don't feel like I'm being unfair making that statement. Anyway, back to the exhibition - it was just an entire exhibition hall (basically the size of a few football fields) filled with publishers, authors, editors, pen-sellers, and books books books! I got in for free because I'm a student. But, I didn't leave without paying anything - the books were so cheap, I bought W ou le souvenir d'enfance by Georges Perec (W or the memory of childhood) and The Death of Tragedy (George Steiner's doctoral thesis), but translated into French because they didn't have it in English. I just love that, instead of filling that convention center with baseball cards or some other stupid fad, they had books! And while I was there, I saw that my l'OuLiPo writing workshop professor, Christine Montalbetti, had given a talk there earlier today. I can't believe I missed it! Apparently, she's an author! Well, I supposed I could have assumed that. 

For dinner, I had an artichoke and some cheese. Passover in France really does stink. Today, I ate a piece of matzah, a salad (minus the croutons) that I overpaid for at a cafe - salads here are so expensive, which is why I always opt for a crepe instead, and that artichoke and cheese. I'm going to starve to death this week. And my pants are going to keep falling down. 

Okay, that's enough for tonight. Wish me luck on my history exam tomorrow! Louis XIV reigned from 1643 to 1715, born in 1638, had the longest reign of any European monarch. Known as the Sun King, he never actually said the famous "L'etat, c'est moi." His actions as king were profoundly influenced by the rebellion known as the Fronde (1648-52) that went on during his childhood during the technical beginning of his reign but really the regency of his mother, Anne d'Autriche with the help of Mazarin, an Italian. Louis XIV was the grandson of Henri IV (who really did say that Paris was well worth the mass) and Catherine de Medici, and was also a descendant of Saint Louis (the only French monarch who was canonized, and also the person for whom Saint Louis, Missouri was named). Louis-le-Grand, the famous high school here, was named after him. Louis was also important in the artistic careers of Molière (he allowed Le Tartuffe to be performed, even though it had been banned for insulting the church) and La Fontaine (I guess that's something else they had in common). His reign was filled with religious and political wars, which increased taxes exponentially. Those combined with the construction of Versailles (though, the construction of Versailles was only the equivalent of one year of all those wars) put France into such a state of bankruptcy that the French Revolution can be blamed on Louis XIV. So, despite the fact that he pacified the nobles with ritualistic traditions in his incredibly pretty castle, I think Louis XIV was not that great a king...Not bad for just off the top of my head, right? The test is going to be like a DBQ about the childhood of Louis XIV. Three hours of writing a history dissertation in French - I'm not as excited for this as I am for literature or philosophy. 

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had a great weekend. You look so happy. But seeing your picture really makes me miss you more. Can't wait to read about what you think about Italy. Hopefully, your package will show up Friday so you have some jeans to wear that fit.