« Je donne mon avis non comme bon mais comme mien. » — Michel de Montaigne

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23 octobre 2005

Paris – New-York

Classé dans : Non classé — Miklos @ 9:15

New York is huge, hectic, angry, ugly. Paris is wide and open, intense, joyous, secret and seductive. In New York, you’re trapped anywhere. In Paris, you’re free everywhere. New York is either dead or deathly. Paris is alive. In New York, there is Broadway and its broads and tarts and pushers and shabby and Hollywood. Paris is wonderful people, charmers and enchanters, theatre, music, dance and songs in concert halls and in the streets. Everyone is different and you can be yourself, for the French admire individualism. They dress with exquisite and irreverent taste rather than flashy fashion; they do not copy, they create. There is lithesome grace and feline dignity in their amble; they do not perform, they are.

In New York you run. Paris is a city for strollers; there is always a park, a café or a bench nearby. Walk along the Seine or in the streets with a friend, embrace tightly, kiss with passion: you are alone, though the streets are not empty; you are not ignored, but your privacy is respected. When people look, they do so with indulgence and connivance, for if New York is a city of busi­ness­men, Paris is the city of lovers.

Paris is an impressionist’s palette of toned and subtle colours, odours and noises which caress and entrance: café au lait with crusty baguettes, crisp croissants and fresh butter; the wistful voice of a sad saxophone or the whine of a badly-tuned violin winding along the endless corridors of the métro past the smelly and garrulous bums and their inevitable bottle of red wine; the open markets flaunting lush piles of variegated vegetables and multitudes of glittering fish and pungent cheese and feisty cries of mongers in long aprons and rolled-up sleeves; the evanescent whiff of a delicate perfume lingering in the wake of an elegant apparition.

Paris breathes; it has quiet and secluded squares and gardens full of green where children play la marelle and le foot under the watchful eye of a gruff policeman with white stick and shrill whistle and the blind stare of moss-eaten statues of scantly draped grandes dames and dream princes, amid snow-haired little old ladies clad in black feeding fat and complacent pigeons, while the men, wearing bushy moustaches and bérets basques, eagerly dispute a game of pétanque. Paris is full of buoyant streets bordered with curtained windows through which the concierge and her cat see everything, paved with the cobbles which built the perennial barricades and witnessed many a revolution; for Paris is history and eternity, “never quite the same and never quite different,” stone and iron, mirrors and water and lights and shadows, while New York, cast in metal and concrete and glass, is forever frozen in the present.

There is light in the eyes of the Parisians, for they sparkle with fun like the waterworks of Versailles and reflect not only the sky and the sun but also the Seine in her lazy and mysterious greyness; their smile is warm and engaging for they have time to smile, there is music in their voice and their laughter is crystalline, there is intelligence in their humour, there is depth in their friendship, and yes there is tenderness and sincerity and infinite time in the fold of their arms.

Ithaca, 1979-1980

6 commentaires »

  1. Excellent!

    Commentaire par Penet — 10 mars 2009 @ 22:20

  2. Miklos – How could you! Write such a negative review of NY City! It almost make me want ot write all the negative things about Paris which I have experienced over the years…
    What made you write such a disppointed portrait?

    Commentaire par Inga — 10 mai 2011 @ 14:18

  3. Thanks.

    This is a text I wrote tongue-in-cheek 30 years ago, much under the influence of a wonderful text by Dylan Thomas, Reminiscences of Childhood. Anyone who has been to Paris in the last 30 years knows this is not the City of Lights which is described in this text, as anyone who knows NYC should realize the same about the Big Apple: both here are clichéed views of the real ones.

    Commentaire par Miklos — 10 mai 2011 @ 14:24

  4. In the same vein, there is this great tirade in Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach:

    When considering the best liked cities on earth, Paris looms large among them. Paris is one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions. And not without reason, for Paris has much to offer. Paris does not have a multiplicity of skyscrapers like New York, but it has much beauty and elegance. And Paris has an illustrious background of history.

    In Paris there is a number of young men who are very beautiful, very charming, and very lovable. Paris is called « the city of lights ». But these young men who are very beautiful, very charming, and very lovable, prefer the darkness for their social activities.

    One of the most beautiful streets of Paris is called Les Champs-Elysées, which means the Elysian Fields. It is very broad, bordered with trees, and very pleasant to look at.

    One of the most beautiful things of Paris is a lady. She is not too broad, bordered with smiles, and very, very, very pleasant to look at. When a gentleman contemplates a lady of Paris, the gentleman is apt to exclaim : « oo la la », for the ladies of Paris are very charming. And the ladies of Paris are dedicated to the classic declaration, expressed in the words : « L’amour, toujours l’amour ! »

    A Russian man once said that the eyes of a Paris lady are as intoxicating as good wine, and that her burning kisses are capable of melting the gold in a man’s teeth.

    In Germany, in Italy, in Congo, in China, and in the United States of America, there are men who say : « If you’ve never been kissed by a lady of Paris, you’ve never been kissed at all. »

    Commentaire par Miklos — 21 mai 2011 @ 19:23

  5. I loved reading this tounge in cheek work of yours. I was born in 1979, and it’s nice to read the description of Paris and know that it truly hasn’t changed in those 32 years. I agree about new york and that it hasn’t changed either. Even after such tragedies as have occurred a decade ago. Paris and it’s culture remains my most adored city in the world, and again I thank you for writing in such depth about the city I cherish, and miss desperately.

    Commentaire par James Woodward — 7 février 2012 @ 8:23

  6. Thanks, but Paris is definitely not this way, really, nor was it 30 years ago. It is an intentionally romanticized version of what Paris must have been before WWII (and a bit afterwards, maybe), as the view of NY is also definitely a b&w imaginary one.

    Commentaire par Miklos — 7 février 2012 @ 8:30

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