Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jean-Paul and Simone (The Seventies)

As a student in the French Department in the 1970's, I studied Huis-Clos, Les Mouches, and Les Jeux sont Faits. As a young girl from the suburbs ( une véritable bourgeoise), these works impressed me greatly although I can now readily admit that I didn't fully understand the philosophical background. But I decided at this time that I wanted to be a French existentialist. I would live in a tiny apartment in Paris,
do no domestic chores for any man and I would smoke gitanes or gauloises. I would live my life like Simone de Beauvoir.

During this time, I watched an interesting film interview of the couple.The film was produced by Radio-Canada in 1967 and included footage of both Sartre's and de Beauvoir's apartments in Montparnasse.  Sartre's apartment overlooked  La Cimetière Montparnasse where the two are buried side by side. I always visit cemeteries in Paris because they are so rich in cultural history.

The more complex aspects of both the relationship and the philosophy obviously eluded me because I
married an accountant, lived in a split-level house and had a daughter.  I know that I am not secure enough to handle "contingent relationships." I like decorating, cooking and puttering about at home.  During Simone and J-P's first separation when both were posted to teaching jobs in different areas of France, Simone walked many miles on the weekends to overcome her loneliness.  During my first solo visit to France, when my first marriage ended and I was not yet in a secure relationship, I walked for so many miles around the tiny village of Montaigut-le-Blanc in the Auvergne, that I wore out my shoes and had to borrow a pair of of tennis shoes that I called "my Simone shoes."

I travelled along the Boulevard Montparnasse almost every day during last year's visit to Paris because my classes were held in nearby Reid Hall.  I shopped in the shops, visited the Edgar Quinet market near  Montparnasse station and often enjoyed a glass of wine in a bistro. The Closerie des Lilas, La Coupole, Le Select and La Rotonde, restaurants popular in the heyday of the area, still  line the Boulevard Montparnasse. Probably little has changed since the time of Simone and Jean-Paul.

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