30 September 2014

Cimetière parisien de Thiais, Val-de-Marne (94), Île-de-France #4: Joseph Roth

Our search for the graves in Thiais which follow was greatly assisted by an extremely helpful man who wishes simply to be known as Mister H. Many thanks to you: you saved us a great deal of time!

2.9.1894 – 27.5.1939'

Roth's books – which were due to be destroyed by the Nazis – were marked by nostalgia for the Jewish past. Roth exiled himself as soon as Hitler took power in 1933, eventually settling in Paris. In 1939 he collapsed in front of his local – the Café Tournon, above which he lived – and died four days later of alcohol-related illness.

Some of his noted works are Hôtel Savoy (1924), Le poids de la grâce (1930), La Marche de Radetzky (1932), and La Crypte des Capucins (1938).

Cimetière parisien de Thiais, Val-de-Marne (94), Île-de-France #3: Marcel Thiébaut


Thiébaut was a literary critic who ran Revue de Paris almost on his own for some years. He also wrote plays, including Doris (1946), Le Prince d'Aquitaine (1947), and Les Bonnes cartes (1949).

Cimetière parisien de Thiais, Val-de-Marne (94), Île-de-France #2: Étienne Hadju

'Je suis amoureux 1957
ÉTIENNE HADJU 1907–1996'

These words, which of course translate as 'I'm in love', are in fact the title of this work of sculpture by Étienne Hadju, made in 1957, which forms Hadju's gravestone: the 'folds' presumably represent a couple under a sheet in a bed, and this is quite a remarkable sight.

Hadju was a sculptor of the nouvelle École de Paris persuasion. He was born in Romania of Hungarian parents and went to Paris in 1927, where he was for a brief time a student of Antoine Bourdelle, and then of Paul Niclausse. He then discovered Fernand Léger and from 1930 he associated with Vieira da Silva Árpád Szenes.

Cimetière parisien de Thiais, Val-de-Marne (94), Île-de-France #1: Paul Celan


The large number of stones laid here in tribute are an indication of Paul Celan's fame. Celan (born Paul Pessach Antschel (or Ancel – an anagram of Celan)) was a Romanian poet who wrote in German.

Celan's parents died in an internment camp during World War II, which deeply affected him throughout his life. He was sent to a work camp in Moldavia and freed by the Russians in 1944, changed his name and began earning his living as a translator in Romania. Moving to France, he became reader and translator of German at the ENS.

In 1970 he threw himself into the Seine.

Two important series of letters – the first to his wife Gisèle de Lestrange, the second to Ingeborg Bachmann – were published in 2001 and 2008 respectively.

29 September 2014

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir in the 14th arrondissement, Paris

Hôtel Mistral, 24 rue Cels, Montparnasse.

'Dans cet hôtel ont habité, entre 1937 et 1939, puis à diverses reprises durant la guerre


"Je trichais quand je disais: on ne fait qu'un. Entre deux individus, l'harmonie n'est jamais donnée, elle doit indéfiniment se conquérir."
(S. de BEAUVOIR, La Force de l'Âge)'

'I cheated when I said that we're one. Between two individuals, harmony is never a given, it must be achieved by great effort.'

(As in André Malraux's famous quotation 'La culture ne s'hérite pas; elle se conquiert', 'se conquérir' has often been lazily (and a little meaninglessly) translated literally, so I've avoided it above.)


"Mais il est une chose qui ne change point, ni ne peut changer: c'est que quoi qu'il arrive et quoi que je devienne je le deviendrai avec vous."
(J-P. SARTRE, Lettres au Castor)'

'But there's one thing that never changes, nor can ever change: that is that whatever happens and whatever I become, I shall become it with you.' (Sartre's nickname for Beauvoir was of course "The Beaver".

'Soucieux de préserver leur liberté mutuelle, ils occupaient à l'hôtel deux chambres séparées dominant le cimetière du Montparnasse où la mort les a réunis.'

'Mindful of keeping their individual freedom, they occupied two separate rooms near Montparnasse cemetery, where death has reunited them.'

'Association la Mémoire des Lieux'

28 September 2014

Olivier Adam: Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas (1999)

This is Olivier Adam's first novel, and bears some of the hallmarks of the two other novels of his I've read (À l'abri de rien and Les Lisières), but above all identity crisis.

Claire (a name too ironic for its own good) is twenty-two and, in spite of her bac, works as a supermarket cashier with no ambition to 'better' her existence. This is no doubt because two years previously her brother Loïc, two years younger and evidently much brighter than Claire, just disappeared. Claire had been away at the time and her parents Paul and Irène had to break the news to her.

And this news comes out of the blue like, well, like any other cliché you might want to attach to it. Claire was deeply attached to Loïc, a little like the twin brother the film version of this book (which I've not seen) depicts: they did so many things together, enjoyed the same things, and so on.

Claire isn't, er, clear about the reason for Loïc's disappearance, and all she knows is that he had an argument with his father. She slips into depression and then a postcard comes from him to tell her, as the title of the book says, that he's fine and not to worry. 

Claire's work is monotonous, ok, but Adam over-emphasizes this by the constant repetition of consumer products bought: we get the message only too well, don't lay it on so heavily! But the message Loïc has recently sent Claire from Portbail in the Cotentin peninsula is enough to send her off in a hired car for a week's 'holiday' in search of her brother. She meets a guy there (who will later only add to her alienation, her sense of inferiority) but she also sees her father appear out of nowhere and post a letter.

Loving parents? Well, perhaps, but also lying parents. It will take the mysterious Julien – who has discovered that Loïc didn't just 'disappear' in the English sense, but 'disappeared' in the French sense of died two year before – but the reader feels that here is a man who will know how to heal Claire, cut through her parents' lies.

Some first novels are written by people who have everything to spell (or spill) out first time round, but this was obviously not the case with Olivier Adam. The book is on the surface a very easy read (which I think has slightly irritated some reviewers): short sentences, uncomplicated syntax and vocabulary, etc, and for me too many coincidences, but how much does all this actually reveal about what Olivier Adam is trying to say in this novel? Or are some things just supposed to be left as mysteries?

My other posts on Olivier Adam:

Olivier Adam: Les Lisières
Olivier Adam: Des vents contraires
Olivier Adam: Le Cœur régulier
Olivier Adam: Falaises

Olivier Adam: À l'abri de rien

27 September 2014

Cimetière de Montrouge #10: De Colins de Ham

'J. G. C. A. H.

Jean Guillaume César Alexandre Hippolyte de Colins de Ham was one of the first theorists of socialism, his condemnation of bourgeois society having a profound effect.

Many thanks to the employees of the Cimetière de Montrouge for being so helpful and making the job of finding the graves so much easier for us.

Cimetière de Montrouge #9: Joselia (aka Joseph Blanchard)


Very little appears to be known of Joselia, apart from the fact that Mirèio Doryan and Joseph Maurelle paid 'eloquent' homages to him.

26 September 2014

Cimetière de Montrouge #8: Henri Queffélec

'Henri Queffélec

The son of Yann Queffélec who won the Goncourt in 1985 with Les Noces barbares, Henri was born in Brest and is seen as a great French writer of sea novels. He wrote over eighty books, many inspired by his native Brittany and the sea. His  Un recteur de l'Île de Sein was filmed as Dieu a besoin des hommes.

Cimetière de Montrouge #7: Coluche

This is by far the most visited grave in the Cimetière de Montrouge. The comedian Coluche (1944–86) – born Michel Colucci – was the son of a man born in a small Italian village, and adopted the name at the beginning of his career.

He delighted in attacking taboos, politics, and used risqué language. France is a country that seems to be proud of the many anarchists it has had, and Coluche was certainly an anarchist.

Anarchists loved Coluche, and some even agreed with his running in the 1981 election, although of course he was never a serious contender, and (after death threats) withdrew from a course he no doubt never intended to pursue.

In 1985 Coluche founded Les Restaurants du cœur, a charity designed mainly to feed the poor, and which is better known as Les Restos du cœur. Unfortunately, Coluche died in a motorcycle accident the following year.

25 September 2014

Cimetière de Montrouge #6: Mirèio Doryan

Mirèio Doryan (1901–89) was a poet and essayist born Germaine Drilhe. Very little biographical information seems readily available on her, although Jean-Jacques Rabaud wrote a biography La Vie intense d'une femme-poète about her in 1987. Her first (assumed) name inevitably leads me to think of Frédéric Mistral's famous book of the same name, and I doubt if this is coincidental. She wrote a homage to the poet Joselia (real name Joseph Blanchard), also buried here in Montrouge.

'Ici repose un poète authentique
que l'on nomma
Mirèio Doryan
et qui vécut un grand rêve lyrique'

'Il est vrai qu'il faut bien recouvrir notre écorce
Et ne jamis trembler de faiblesse et de peur,
Pour qu'extérieurement, le reflet du bonheur
Soit pour tous un exemple et pour nous une force.

            Extrait de "Le Pretexte de Psyché"
                           (poème: "La Vie")'

Cimetière de Montrouge #5: Gustave Geffroy

The currently rather hidden grave of Gustave Geffroy (1855–1926), who was a writer (novelist, journalist, art critic, etc) and one of the founder members of the Académie Goncourt. His L'Enfermé (1897) was about the revolutionary socialist Auguste Blanqui, and was originally published in serial form by Félix Juven, who also published Alphonse Allais, Willy, Tristan Bernard, and so on. Cézanne did a portrait of Geffroy in 1895.

24 September 2014

Cimetière de Montrouge #4: Ernest La Jeunesse



1874 – 1917'

La jeunesse was a novelist, caricaturist and literary critic. He wrote and drew for a number of newspapers and magazines, and was appreciated by Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Léautaud and Jules Renard.

He was unkindly criticised for his high-pitched voice and his eccentric clothes, but supported by Octave Mirbeau, a defender of outsiders.

In Le Forçat honoraire, roman immoral (1907), La Jeunesse attacked the popular crime litterature of the time.

Cimetière de Montrouge #3: Carlo Bourlet




Along with writing several works in Mathematics and having a great interest in Esperanto, Bourlet wrote several publications on bicycles, including Traité des bicycles et des bicyclettes, suivi d'une application à la construction des vélodromes (1895).

23 September 2014

Cimetière de Montrouge #2: Albert Simonin

1905 – 1980'

Crime novelist Albert Simonin published a dictionary of slang in 1957 and used such expressions meticulously in his novels, paving the way for writers such as Frédéric Dard and Jean Vautrin.

He was imprisoned for five years for collaborationist activities.

Simonin's greatest success was Touchez pas au grisbi (1953), the first of a trilogy about the old criminal Max le Menteur. His autobiography was Confessions d'un enfant de la Chapelle (1977).

Cimetière de Montrouge #1: René Crevel

1900 – 1935'

René Crevel's father killed himself when his son was fourteen. He went to the lycée Janson-de-Sailly and then the Sorbonne, where he skipped his classes in law to read or to talk with artists. He met André Breton and joined the surrealists when he was twenty-one, initially creating a very strong impression, but later joined Tristan Tzara and the dadaists.

Suffering from tuberculosis, he gassed himself in 1935. Klaus Mann, son of Thomas Mann and a close friend of Crevel's, wrote that he had killed himself because he feared madness, because he thought the world was mad.

21 September 2014

Jean Aicard: Maurin des Maures (1908)

A brief pause from the Paris posts as I just happened to be reading this book.

The poet, novelist and playwright Jean Aicard (1848–1921) is perhaps not a name readily associated with the literature of Provence today, as opposed to, say, Alphonse Daudet, Jean Giono, Frédéric Mistral or Marcel Pagnol. In Fanton-Latour's famous painting Un coin de table (1872) of the 'Vilains Bonshommes', the concentration is always on Verlaine and Rimbaud in the foreground, not Aicard at the back.

But Aicard's novel Maurin des Maures was once a very famous novel that was adapted to film. Many of its qualities suit it to the cinema: the action, the scenery, the love interest, the sharply drawn characters, etc.

Maurin des Maures is set in the massif des Maures in southern Provence, and the main character Maurin may be considered as a kind of rival in readers' affections to Alphonse Daudet's Tartarin de Tarascon.

Maurin is a poacher who lives in a primitive home in Provence, but is more often away from it chasing game but not chasing women because they just have a habit of falling into his lap, although he never keeps them there long: he appears to believe that men are naturally polygamous.

Although always in trouble with the police (particularly Sandri), Maurin always manages to escape from them: oddly, there's something of the Arsène Lupin in this illiterate son of Provence who has a great many friends, and whose reputation is known throughout the country.

There's a love interest too: Tonia the Corsican is (far from her own volition) engaged to Santi, although she becomes increasingly in love with Maurin, to the point of tumbling into bed with him and wanting to marry him. But Maurin is not for marriage, and anyway he refuses to stay faithful to a woman – it's not in his nature.

The story – which is in some respects a number of stories loosely held together within the main story, variations on folk tales (such as the flying donkey from Gonfaron), long episodic digressive passages, etc – seems to be leading to a convention conclusion: Tonia is increasingly in Maurin's thoughts, so surely he'll just change his ways and lead the young woman to the altar and stick with her?

Well, at the end it seems otherwise, as Maurin has been shot dead. Or has he? Maybe not: there's a sequel called L'Ilustre Maurin.

Jean Aicard died in Paris but was buried in Toulon.

Joachim du Bellay, Île de la Cité, 4th arrondissement, Paris


This plaque is on Île de la Cité on the corner of rue Massillon and rue Chanoinesse.

Félix Arvers on Île Saint-Louis, 4th arrondissement, Paris

est né dans cette maison le 23 JUILLET 1806'

This plaque is on 1 rue Budé. Arvers died in 1850 and, although now virtually unknown even in the country of his birth, was very popular in the 19th century. The sonnet below was so well known that several pastiches were made of it:

'Mon âme a son secret, ma vie a son mystère :
Un amour éternel en un moment conçu.
Le mal est sans espoir, aussi j'ai dû le taire,
Et celle qui l'a fait n'en a jamais rien su.

Hélas ! j'aurai passé près d'elle inaperçu,
Toujours à ses côtés, et pourtant solitaire,
Et j'aurai jusqu'au bout fait mon temps sur la terre,
N'osant rien demander et n'ayant rien reçu.

Pour elle, quoique Dieu l'ait faite douce et tendre,
Elle ira son chemin, distraite, et sans entendre
Ce murmure d'amour élevé sur ses pas ;

À l'austère devoir pieusement fidèle,
Elle dira, lisant ces vers tout remplis d'elle :
"Quelle est donc cette femme ?" et ne comprendra pas.'

20 September 2014

Lise Lamarre in Versailles, Yvelines (78): Cimetière des Gonards #5

Lise (or Louise) Lamarre was a poet and a journalist.

                                  15 JUIN 1951'

'Esprit pur, je connais enfin la Vérité.
La Lumière, l'Amour, et ma force sereine
retrouve le but où tend l'humanité
     Lise Lamarre'

Louise Bryant in Versailles, Yvelines (78): Cimetière des Gonards #4

Louise Bryant (1885–1936) was an American writer who espoused socialist and anarchist causes. Her first marriage was to John Reed – who died in 1920 – and she moved to Paris with her second husband, William Bullitt, in 1923. A few years later she was diagnosed with Dercum's disease.  Bulitt divorced her due to her heavy drinking and her lesbian relationship with Gwen Le Gallienne, and Bryant died in in Sèvres of a brain hemorrhage.

The film Reds (1980) is a representation of the Bryant and Reed story.

Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac in Versailles, Yvelines (78): Cimetière des Gonards #3

A superb image of a dandy: the gay poet Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac (1855–1921) was the model for Esseintes in Huysmans's À Rebours (1884) and one of the models for the Baron de Charlus in Marcel Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu.

The statue on this anonymous grave is the angel of silence is from Vitry-sur-Seine château. Montesquiou is buried next to his secretary and lover Gabriel Yturri (1860–1905).

Armand Renaud in Versailles, Yvelines (78): Cimetière des Gonards #2

The Renaud plot in the Cimetière des Gonards includes a rather impressive bust of the poet Armand Renaud (1836–95).

Armand Renaud was born in Versailles and was a civil servant, progressing to inspector of fine arts. He wrote a great deal of poetry, some influenced by Persian and Japanese literature, and some of which was put to music by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921).

19 September 2014

Edith Wharton in Versailles, Yvelines (78): Cimetière des Gonards #1

24 JANVIER 1862 – 11 AOÛT 1937'

Edith Wharton's grave in the Cimetière des Gonards, Versailles. Below is a link to a long earlier post I made on Wharton in the Mount, Lenox, Massachusetts, with many images of her home there:

Edith Wharton in Lenox, Massachusetts