Chez moi – old neighborhood, eminent neighbors, and a long wait

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My neighbors at the Palais-Royal.

Diderot lived and died here.

So, while waiting for my luggage, and deepening my relationships with the baggage resolution personnel at United Airlines, I finally did spend a few minutes this afternoon wandering around my neighborhood, with my cellphone handy in case I had to rush back home for a joyful reunion with my suitcase.  Alas, the phone call never came… (we’re getting close to three days now).  Clearly, this arrondissement is big on the 17th century – so am I, so it’s a nice match.

Colette lived and died here.

Daniel Medin was right in telling me that this is a literary neighborhood – but really, aren’t all Paris neighborhoods literary ones?  Certainly my previous digs near the Eiffel Tower had its share of literary associations. Since I could not meet Daniel at the Louvre today as we had hoped, this increasingly grubby woman could explore the sites that Colette, Diderot, Molière, Corneille, and even Peruvian writer César Vallejo (1892-1938) called home – or at least a place to die.

A few blocks away, French tragedian Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) is entombed at the magnificent Eglise St. Roch.  Nearby, the Comédie-Française, which reaches back to the days of Molière (1622-1673). Good company for an afternoon walk.

The brouhaha with the airlines reminds me of the famous saying of Colette (1873-1954), “Plus je connais les hommes, plus j’aime mes chats.”  Mes chats are far away, but I’ll settle for the company of a few ghosts, these eminent and familiar spirits.

This one, however, disquiets me.  A marker for Ludovic J. Jacquinot, one of the “group of angels” who “fell gloriously” on the 26th of August, 1944.  The name, which has slightly Slavic resonances for me, reminds me of the ones I saw in Poland, trying in my off-hours to find out what I could about these wartime victims and heroes.  Unlike his Polish counterparts, however, there were no flowers at Ludovic’s marker.

There’s not much about him online. The FFI, or “Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur,” were the French Resistance fighters at the tail-end of the war. He may have been an architect, and may have lived on this or that street.  He was forty years old, and of course did not fall but was “tué,” under what circumstances it isn’t clear, except that it occurred here, at 2 rue des Pyramides.  Who remembers him?  I will, I guess.

Postscript:  Voilà!  My luggage has arrived while I have been writing this.  What a glorious thing it is to be clean again.


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4 Responses to “Chez moi – old neighborhood, eminent neighbors, and a long wait”

  1. Pierre de Taille Says:

    Everywhere in Paris you can find these “plaques” commemorating the battle for the liberation of the city, in August 1944. These french (and not french) were shot by the German, mostly from August 23 to August 26, when the German Fled and Paris was free. Every year at the end of August, these “plaques” bear flowers, paying tribute to those who died for a freedom we are too often taking for granted. I’m french, living in Paris, and everytime I see one of these “plaques” I think of it, happy and grateful to live in a free country.

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Thank you for the additional perspective, Pierre! And of course you’re right – we take all too much for granted.

  3. Emma Says:

    I recommend a book Writers in Paris: Literary Lives in the City of Light by David Burke. It’s a great way to visit Paris when you have time. There’s an entry on my blog about it, if you’re interested.

    PS: everywhere in France you have these plaques on walls when awful events happened during WWII.

  4. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Thanks, Emma. It will have to wait till next time. I’m winding up operations and heading for Avignon on Monday morning.

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