The History That Wasn't

Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie, Paris 5
This café is right around the corner from the Nouvelle Mairie of the 5th.

Lots of Research, Little to Show for It

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 12. January 1998:- About ten days ago I got a huge packet from the Bibliothèque Nationale, concerning the homage to Captain Dreyfus and his defender, Emile Zola - which starts today.

All sorts of ideas started to twirl around in my amateur-historian brain as I thought of all I could 'do' with this; how I could tie in this 100 year-old 'affaire' with the way France is today.

But, what I did first - when I got around to it - was call the press service at the BN to see if they could send me something in the way of images. After some conversation, it seemed as if the only thing they were willing to release, was a copy of the front page of the famous edition of L'Aurore with the 'J'Accuse...!' headline. I even promised to return it to them after scanning it.

Meanwhile, I got my little library more or less in order - not a great lot; but enough. On Wednesday I went to the Panthéon, but only learned they do not like visitors without appointments. I managed to verify that Zola is 'in' it.

On Friday I went up to near Clichy to look at the house in the rue de Bruxelles. After I got that, I battled shoppers for peeks at naughty windows, to get some sort or shots for M-R. O'Rahilly's little commentary on fashion; and it all ended up being a long walk - in beautiful weather.

From the Dreyfus-Zola packet I learned of the Zola museum at Médan and because it isn't far away I went there on Saturday. I didn't count on a huge traffic jam on the RN13 going both ways, and on the ten-year-old's birthday party going on outside my door.

Then TV started cranking up the Zola machine over the weekend and I saw roof of Pantheon a movie version of Dreyfus getting his sword snapped in half a half-dozen times. By last night, it seemed as if today's ceremonies had already begun.

Two of the columns and the roof of the Panthéon; from a bent-neck view.

In the end, I have not had time to even read 'J'Accuse...!' It is about seven pages long, single-spaced and with few paragraph breaks. I think typesetters must have hated indents for some reason. I have not had time to write a brief history of France from, say, the war of 1870 to 1900 - to give you an idea of those times; in fact, you may as well read Zola instead.

The truth of it is, I got bogged down in the size of the project; it will not fit into this sort of publication, done with justice.

Instead all I can give you are the bare bones of the 'Affaire Dreyfus.' There was a gigantic uproar about it and it went on for years; in certain circles in France, it is still going on.

I assembled my materials, but I didn't get into them. The one thing I would like to know, is how Dreyfus was picked to be the fall-guy in the first place - and why a relatively minor bit of routine espionage was inflated all out of proportion by army leaders.

For want of any answers at the moment, I can only guess that folly is always in season.

Short-Cut to San Francisco

Last Wednesday I was taking one of my long, roundabout shortcuts, through the rue Dupuytren, so I was thinking about Sylvia Beach, and when I turned left into rue Monsieur-le-Prince and saw the San Francisco Book Co. I suspended my 'shortcut' route for a minute to look it over.

The shop is not big inside so its organization and tidiness allow it to contain more than it first appears possible. Most books are used, but some are new but 'remaindered' editions; selling for under their cover prices. The shop buys used books, either for cash, trade or trade-credit.

I saw a copy of Jimmy Charter's 'This Must Be the Place' for 50 francs, somewhat less than its cover price of $13.95 and would have snatched it up immediately if I had not been momentarily financially distressed.

Chance brought the two owners together at a used-book sale at San Franscisco Book Co Novato, California. Jim Carroll of San Francisco's Carroll's Books had wanted a bookstore in Paris for some time and Phil Woods, a longtime Bay area book collector, wanted something to do in Paris.

They made a deal and Woods came to Paris in the fall of 1996. He took classes at the Sorbonne and dived into the murk involved with the starting and operation of a business in France.

Tidy shop on a tidy street; near where it happened before 78 years ago.

Slyvia Beach's shop was not just a book store - it was a place to meet other people who were interested in books; and at the time it was also possible to meet the authors of books, because they used the shop too. It is possible that a lot of authors still live in the Latin Quarter. It is also possible that they are 'momentarily financially distressed' too and will get their books from this new shop - and perhaps hang around for a bit of chit-chat as I did.

The San Francisco Book Co. opened on Saturday, 4. October 1997 at 17. rue Monsieur-le-Prince, near métro Odéon. If you like books and you are in a hurry to get someplace, do not use rue Monsieur-le-Prince as a speedy shortcut.

Some Events: All Old Stuff

Two for One: The city of Paris, known locally as the Ville de Paris, has a little operation going which involves getting two places at concerts for the price of one.

In French it says, 'Take a place, come with two.' I don't think they mean for you to share a seat, so it is a 50 percent reduction offer. Exactly what it's good for I don't know, but you can find out by calling 01 42 78 44 72. This operation continues until Sunday, 18. January.

Exhibitions About to Close:

The 'George de la Tour' show ends its run on at the National Galleries du Grand Palais, Champs-Elysées-Clemanceau, on Monday, 26. January.

The Havemeyer Collection at the Musée d'Orsay finishes its run on Sunday, 18. January.

'Pajou - Sculpteur du Roi' at the Musée du Louvre, will be letting in its last viewers on Monday, 19. January.

The Musée du Château de Fountainbleau has been showing off a selection from Napoléon's library of 2,378 volumes he had at Elba to while away the time he was there from May of 1811 to February 1815. The exhibition has been on since the end of October 1997 and ends on Monday, 19. January. Info. Tel.: 01 50 71 50 77.

Coming Attractions: New 'Grand' Exhibitions

Musée du Louvre: the 'Lemme Collection' of 17th and 18th century portraits: opens on Friday, 13. February.
Musée d'Orsay: 'Manet, Monet, the Gare Saint-Lazare' opens on Thursday, 12. February.
There are 12 other 'Grand' exhibitions scheduled to open in Paris, mostly between March and the end of June.

One Year Ago, Metropole Ran Its First Issue for Two Weeks:

Issue 2.01/2.02 - 6. January 1997 featured the columns - Metropole Diary's 'Jumps a Week' and count-down eiffel 'Au Bistro' had - 'Big Blah on TV, Big Crowd in Real Cold.' The articles in the issue were 'Paris - In The Future Recent - A Short and Fast First Mini-Tour of 1997' - 'Paris - In The Passé Recent - Highs and Lows of the Last Grand Tour of 1996' and 'The Half-Price Dress of Your Dreams - 'On Sale' in Paris May Be Better than 'Wholesale' Elsewhere.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week rounded off the issue.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 719 days left to go.

Regards, Ric
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini