The Stories Beneath

When I was a young girl, I loved stories more than pretty much anything else. Not one to climb trees or jump ditches, I wrote poetry and created lyrics for my Toronto Royal Conservatory music. I used my mother's ancient Underwood typewriter to publish some of my works.  Once, I was brave enough to submit one of my poems to a magazine. It was not published but I had not yet learned the skills of revision and perseverance.

In the 1950's, books were special gifts to be bestowed on birthdays and on Christmas. Consequently, I read the books of my mother's girlhood library and of our small but friendly library branch. One of the reasons that I love Paris so much is that it is like the palimpsest where old stories are erased to make way for newer ones. However, if one looks very closely, the remnants of the past remain.

Yesterday marked the beginning of Passover. On my street was a procession of Jewish men wearing tall black hats with one man wearing an impressive hat of fur. I don't take pictures of people in the street unless they are performing and I have asked their permission so I do not have a photo.

I decided to visit La Rue des Rosiers again to learn more about le quartier. France has the largest Jewish population in Europe and the third largest in the world after Israel and the United States. There have been Jewish people living in France since Roman times. Throughout French history, there have been periods of acceptance and periods of expulsion and persecution.
The main square is called the Pletz (little place)
I was disappointed that many of the shops were closed but found some interesting signs and windows.

A miniature Seder table.

Most of the Jewish population in Paris were deported to camps. Three hundred school children were sent away from the Fourth Arrondissement. The Museum of the Shoah and Le Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation are interesting centres to visit to learn more about the Shoah.

This young Resistance fighter was killed. There are many such plaques around Paris.

There are so many stories in these few streets of the Marais that I wonder if I will make it to any other areas in the week that remains to me. I am, however, going to visit the Yiddish traiteur, Florence Kahn to pick up some authentic Passover fare.

Two years ago, when I was studying at CCFS, I prepared an oral presentation on L'Affaire Dreyfus, a controversy that split the French nation in two. Last night, I listened to a BBC 4 In Our Time history broadcast on the affair. If French history is an interest, you might find this discussion informative.

Personally, I think that I am missing the academic life a bit and wonder where that road will take me.

"I do like a road, because you can be always wondering what is at the end of it," once said Sara Stanley, also known as the Story Girl.
From The Story Girl  by L.M. Montgomery (one of Maman's girlhood books)


  1. Madame I think you write with such passion and grace....
    Is it my imagination or are you exceptionally happy living in Paris?
    I get the impression that you are living your dream! You seem to have blossomed in the city with a history steeped in culture.

  2. I am so happy living in Paris that I feel a little bit guilty. I love to experience each neighbourhood completely and I find so much to engage me. Just to look, listen and taste in one block is overwhelming!
    When you visit, you will probably feel the same way. I am feeling a little sad to be leaving but I have spoken to Maman's cousin in Shetland and the relatives are so pleased that I am coming. Are you feeling better and enjoying your library books? Sometimes books under the duvet can transport us.

    1. I wish I could report a speedy recovery but this is bug is loathe to leave.
      Your posts are such a welcome tonic in between my books...enjoy your next phase of the trip.

  3. Have you had a chance yet to try out the falafels at L'as du Falafel on Rue des Rosiers? So good!
    I've started reading Au Bon Roman by Laurence Cossé -- I managed to get it in French through Chapters. . . hoping to ramp up my vocab and fluency before we get to Bordeaux (6 or 7 weeks from now). As for the Dreyfus affair, I'd have to revise that history -- last time I spent much time with it was when reading Proust many years ago. . . a project I mean to take on again one of these days, perhaps following your example of an active intellectual life, post-retirement.
    Much as I love reading of your time in Paris, I'm really looking forward to seeing Shetland through your eyes.

    1. No, I haven't tried the falafels yet! I must before I leave. Are you enjoying Au Bon Roman? It's a good idea to read it in French. One of my retirement projects is to tackle my boxes of French
      literature from university days. When I read these books, I was in my 20's and had not spent time in France. I'm sure that as an older, more experienced reader, my appreciation of the works will
      be different. My hamefaring is just a week away. I need to savour my solitude as the next month of travel will be very different.


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