In the city of words

Notes from Paris

24 August 2014

What is it about this city that wakes up the writer in me? Is it the history of literature, art, and philosophy that manifests itself everywhere, the symbols of the past that welcome and embrace you at every street corner, in each café, on every bridge, in every square, beyond each set of gates, arch, curtain or greeting? Is it the stylish literary cafés, and the brand new award-winning books displayed therein, behind thick glass and shining frames? Is it the domes, the goggles or the imposing statues donning on you from everywhere – even the balcony of private apartments on quiet, unassuming streets? Is it the chess-playing solitaire figure sitting by himself at one of the street-facing tables at …. Café?

Or the perfectly lined up chestnut trees in the Jardin du Luxembourg? The floor to ceiling filled up multi-storey bookshop, antique shop, and literary café, each with its own century old story to jump out at you from a menu, newspaper, leaflet, or conversation with its owner, always eager to talk to you about their latest Heizel edition of Jules Verne, or newest prize-winning novella? Is it the history itself of this place – where even the simple baguette, cappuccino, or falafel has its histoire? Or is it the people leaving therein, who eat and breathe this art, history, and philosophy?

It’s actually more simple than the above and more complicated at the same time — it’s the language itself, and its lively presence among people, cafés, river, gardens and statues. It’s how language insinuates itself everywhere like a smell, light or colour – smog and perfume, sunshine and shadow at the same time. Not only fully fledged stories, science and theories, not just experiments and masterpieces worthy of international acclaim and public gallery display, not just metaphysical tomes or sophisticated accounts of the universe, but also – especially, immediately, inevitably, irresistibly close and most importantly, everyday names and idioms. Mona lisait, Le vin qui parle, Cafeotheque, L’Academie de biere, Tabac de l’Arrivee… Everyday language, so full of life and inspiration.

This is the city of words, with a life of their own. That’s how it breathes life into our literary subconscious and wakes up the writer in us.