Thursday, August 19, 2010

Paris Journal IV: Silence is Golden

The Musée Carnavalet in the Marais section of Paris is the Museum of the City of Paris, which is housed in the former residence of the great letter-writer Madame de Sevigny. One of the permanent exhibits is the room Marcel Proust occupied. “C’est dans son modeste lit du laine qu’il composa la plus grande partie de A La Recherche du Temps Perdu.It was in his modest wool bed that he composed the great part of The Remembrance of Things Past, reads the inscription on the wall outside the installation. The room was covered in cork at the suggestion of his friend, the Comtesse de Noailles, to ensure silence. The same décor existed in the three residences Proust occupied after the death of his parents: 102 Boulevard Haussman (1902-1919), 8 bis rue Laurent-Pichat (l919), and 44 rue Hamelin (1919-22). With its antique desk, its chest, its tiny upholstered chair, Proust’s digs resemble the small but elegant respites in the expensive boutique hotels that are ubiquitous in Paris these days. Its embroidered couch recalls Freud’s study. Proust’s cane remains, and on the wall is a picture of Proust’s father Adrian, a doctor who wore pince-nez. One floor up in the Carnavalet is a floor devoted to the French Revolution, which contains a framed copy of the Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen. The first article reads: “Le but de la société est le bonheur commun.” The aim of society is the happiness of everyone—a dictum that has apparently eluded the hardened creatures who still lurk in the doorways of the infamous rue St. Denis only a few blocks away.

[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]

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