Edgar Allan Poe wrote:
“Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.”
Yesterday morning I was reading an interview with Jodi Picoult. I had never heard of Jodi while living in Dubai, the same way I had never heard of Mordecai Richler there. But that’s not unusual in that part of the world, especially Dubai, where not only the interests of people and particularly those of the young generation are totally different, but good books, all kinds of books from all sorts of writers are hard to find.
Here in Montreal without a doubt it’s a totally different story. The first book I read from Jodi was The Tenth Circle and I wanted to read more. To make a long story short she became one of my favorite writers and hence I wanted to find out and read more about her as a writer.
I found one of her interviews where she says that her dream started with Gone With The Wind and that she had a moment in Atlanta, Georgia, when she sat at Margaret Mitchell’s desk and trembled.
I closed the book. Her story was so dear to me for I remembered Paris in 1986. In the summer of that year my late husband and I traveled to Rome, Venice and Paris. It was the most unforgettable trip for me. We arrived in Paris in the afternoon. That same night I had dinner with my uncle whom I had not seen since I was a little girl. Early next morning my pilgrimage began in The Latin Quarters. First stop Sorbonne, then Café De Flore in Boulevard St. Germain and finally a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens, le Jardin Du Luxembourg.
Of all the female writers my all-time favorite remains Simone De Beauvoir. I grew up reading her books, devouring them. Of all the books in my library hers are the most read with pages that fall out the moment you open the books. I love her biographical series the most, accounts of her life with Jean Paul Sartre – Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, The Prime of Life, Force of Circumstance.
So I started with Sorbonne, the university where Simone De Beauvoir studied. I walked through the halls of the university thinking this is where it all began, this is where she wrote;
“My place was neither in bars nor libraries: then where was it? I could see no other salvation than in books.”
Then from there we walked towards Boulevard St. Germain. As we drew closer my knees felt shaky. When at last I reached Café De Flore my heart was throbbing and I could hardly breathe. So this is where she spent most of her time. This is where she met her friends, where she sat for hours, writing. I sat at a table outside for a few minutes and then walked up the stairs to the second floor. I found what I thought and remembered from her memoirs to be her corner, her table and I sat down. I was literally shaking. I touched the desk, her desk, looked around me, visualized her there. In that corner, cigarette in hand, writing. Then I
“Day-dreamed about my own existence. It wouldn’t be a stormy life, nor even a startling one. All I wanted was to be in love, to write good books, to have children and friends to whom I can dedicate my books and who will show my children by personal experience what poetry and philosophy can be.” Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter
That early in the morning there was no one in the café. We had the whole place to ourselves. I looked around. So Simone and Jean Paul Sartre met Salvador Dali and Picasso and so many others, here in this small café at the corner of St. Germain Des Pres where Simone wrote;
“We belonged to no place or country, no class, profession, or generation. Our truth lay elsewhere. It was inscribed upon the face of eternity, and the future would reveal it: we were writers. Any other verdict was the merest false illusion.” The Prime of Life
My husband took pictures of me which I later stuck on my writing desk in my bedroom in Dubai and which became my muse. All those years, whenever I looked at the photos it all came back to me, filling me with an incredible sensation that kept me writing.
In the café, my husband watched me quietly and let me live the moment. I cannot describe what I felt then. I looked out the window and I remembered;
“This afternoon I’m upstairs at the Flore, near the window, I can see the wet street, the plane tree swaying in the sharp wind, there are a lot of people, and downstairs there’s a great hubbub. I don’t feel at ease here. Something tells me that I’ll never again work here as I used to for so many years.” Force of Circumstance
I sighed and turned to my husband and smiled. I got what I came for and for that I was forever grateful. But, as he pointed out, we still had to see Paris, and so, holding my hand, he led me down the stairs and back out into the street…