Although it was a challenge to find Kyoto within these four walls (without access to the public library, still in lockdown), it was easy to find Paris for May’s Here and Elsewhere. And if my calendar image looks familiar, it’s because a photograph of the same scene has frequently adorned my Mavis Gallant posts.
In fact, the title story of my current Mavis Gallant collection, Across the Bridge, features Paris: the restaurant on Montparnasse where Sylvie and Arnaud meet for lunch, Trois Quartiers, the eponymous bridge from Place de la Concorde to Palais Bourbon, and the view of the Church of St. Augustin through the window.
And in her “Forain”, in the same collection, there’s the Saint-Vincent de Paul convent, Place Saint-Michel, Angelina’s on rue de Rivoli, the Hôtel de ville Métro station, and Père Lachaise cemetery.
The latter also appears in Eugenie Mahyere’s I Will Not Serve (1959; translated by Antonia White, 1984), which I read with Madame Bibi’s NADIM (Novella a Day in May) in mind. We also visit the garden of the Palais-Royal, avoid a puddle while crossing the Rue Vavin, and walk “beside the black water of the Saint Martin canal”.
Sylvie’s story is Paris-soaked, but more about her than Paris:
“During the ten years and more that her parents had lived in the Boulevard Montparnasse, there had never been a week when she had not crossed the Luxembourg Gardens, but never yet had they looked to her as they looked that day. It is events that suddenly transform certain places into a stage-setting for our lives. She stared at the trees, the Medici fountain, the statues and the passers-by as if she had never seen them before. They had become the unforgettable scenery and the walkers-on in the drama of one hour, the hour of hope.”