Archive for June 18th, 2014

Is it possible to collapse from too much love?

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

At the Pont de l”Archevêché, “a forest of glittering objects…” (Photo: Francis Hannaway)

Some months ago we posted this, from Marilyn Yalom‘s How the French Invented Love:

During the summer of the [Dominique] Strauss-Kahn affair, I found myself walking behind the Cathedral of Notre Dame and wondering how I could finish this book. Had love in France become little more than a myth?  Were the French abandoning the ideal of “the great love” in favor of serial affairs?  Had seduction won out over sentiment? And then my eye was drawn to a strange sight. I saw, attached to the grille on the Pont de l”Archevêché crossing the Seine, a forest of glittering objects, small padlocks with initials or names on them, sometimes with dates or hearts: C and K, Agnes & René, Barbara & Christian, Luni & Leo, Paul & Laura, 16–6–10. There must be at least two or three thousand. And already, on the other side of the bridge, a few similar locks were clinging to the grille.  How long before that side would also be completely covered?

I hung around, enchanted by the spectacle, and was rewarded by the sight of two youthful lovers, who came across the bridge arm in arm, affixed a lock to the grille, drank from each other’s lips, and threw the key into the Seine.

how-the-french-invented-loveWe wondered at the time … can love sometimes be too much? Could the burden of love be lighter?  Is it possible to collapse from too much love? Yes! And that’s exactly what happened:

… the celebrated bridge had to be evacuated at the weekend after part of the railing collapsed under the weight of love locks attached to it.

Police ordered visitors to leave and closed the footbridge after a 2.4-metre section of railing broke loose.

Since the phenomenon began in 2008 it has become a headache for city officials. Not only is the full 150-metre Pont des Arts covered in locks, but visiting lovebirds have targeted other bridges in the French capital. Forty locks are reported to have been removed from the Eiffel tower. …

Protesters who say the thousands of locks are an eyesore and vandalism have long warned they are also a risk to the iron bridge, which is a listed monument, and launched a petition to have them removed. There are also campaigns on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

The protesters wrote an open letter to the Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, saying the locks were “like a plague on our city’s historic bridges and sites.” They complained: “This is most apparent on the Pont des Arts, which has been terribly degraded, both visually and structurally In a few short years, the heart of Paris has been made ugly, robbing Parisians of quality of life and the ability to safely enjoy their own public spaces along the Seine, which has itself been polluted by thousands of discarded keys. The time has come to enact a ban on ‘love locks’ in order to return our bridges to their original beauty and purpose.”

The Guardian article is here. Or the BBC article here. One reader worried: “Does this mean that thousands of innocent tourists have now fallen out of love? Their dreams consigned to the watery depths of the Seine?” Another sniped: “Nothing says I love you like putting a padlock on a bridge in Paris.” I’d settle for a trip to Paris and a 7th floor walk-up on the Rue des Petits Champs.