You might have read in my previous post that 1986 is a year of great significance to me. In the summer of that year my husband and I traveled to Rome, Venice and Paris. It was the most unforgettable trip for me. I loved every single minute I spent in Rome. I cannot say enough about Venice but Paris touched me in more ways than anyone can ever imagine. 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.
I am in awe of writers. Not only do I love to read their work but I also like to read about them, listen to them talk, watch their interviews, find out everything I can about their writing life. How they work, how they write, where they write. 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
My dream had come true. 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…