It’s officially turned to autumn here. The morning chill hasn’t burnt off the past couple of days. Rainy and gray. Feeling a little blue that our time is over.
I can’t decide if going back to a warmer clime will be nice or not. I think I’m ready for fall to stay. And that’s not just because I want to show off my new purple scarf (très chic).
Back to our standby Café Panis for brunch. We’re trying to beat the rain and see a couple last things; the Montparnasse Cemetery (and maybe the tower) and see the stain glass at Ste. Chapelle. Hop on the Metro to head south, and end up going the wrong way on the yellow line (again). Only line that has given us any trouble; I think the subway here is waaaaaay easier than say, NYC. We find the right train eventually.
Its grayer when we finally emerge on the Blvd. Edgar Quintent, where the Cemetery gates are. I’ve read that the maps for this one are free, unlike the ones at Père Lachaise, where you have to buy one from a street vendor. As we enter it starts to rain. I see the notice that they aren’t distributing free maps until October; they are being updated currently. Great. I scurry up to a small sign giving the location of the “notable” occupants. The map on the sign is small and the locations of several tombs I want to see aren’t on there (Man Ray and Susan Sontag) or are in obviously hard places to find. Maps here are terrible!
I sketch a rude layout of the plan, mark a few graves, and we try to find them. Its cold and wet; she finds the excursion a little macabre and I have no sense of direction. Steph says, “This is true love,” as she helps me navigate.
We visit Jean-Paul Sartre and Simon de Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, Charles Baudelaire, Serge Gainsbourg, and after a long search, Emil Cioran. I had mainly come to visit him. William H. Gass called Cioran’s work “a philosophical romance on the modern themes of alienation, absurdity, boredom, futility, decay, the tyranny of history, the vulgarities of change, awareness as agony, reason as disease.” His writing was strangely calming and supportive to me during some tough parts of my life, and, even though I don’t share his gleeful pessimism or identify with his alienation from society anymore, I greatly admire his passion and lyrical, original writings. It was very moving to visit.
Steph asked me why I like to visit cemeteries; see graves of people I admire. I like visiting them for the quiet and respectful air, an often pretty walk, and getting a helpful reminder that life is short. And what is a grave but a monument to someone’s life? I really don’t think its too morbid.
[ From Steph: I don’t think cemeteries are morbid, but today it was a little creepy what with the cold rain and giant crows cawing (wish I had gotten a photo of one of them!). But I’m really glad we went. The visit also led to some great conversations. Also, somehow, the weather really fit the excursion! ]
I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted (missed Baudrillard, Durkheim, Cortazar, Ionesco and Maupassant) but we didn’t want to catch cold, and they aren’t going anywhere.
We sped to the center of the Citie afterwards, and the weather was too wet and we too tired to wait in line to see the stained glass at the chapel. We promised each other it was first on the list for our next visit.
All packed-up now, back to Le Grenier de Notre-Dame for dinner and then our last night for this trip. We’ll update next from C-ville.
We are afraid of the enormity of the possible.
Emil Cioran, A Short History of Decay (1949)