When we need to stay confined at home for a while, our senses, desperately on the lookout for what's happening outside, pick up either the noises or the unusual silence pierced by the songs of birds. Perhaps the confinement has been an opportunity to read or reread authors sometimes forgotten on our library shelves.
Thus, I resumed reading Proust, in this curious period of confinement, not so much because it was largely recommended by magazines as the writer lived part of his life, confined and withdrawn from the world. If I reread Proust, it was rather because as a voice giver I had to read aloud an excerpt of Proust from a book about Paris: a literary anthology, from François Villon to Michel Houellebecq. One of the chosen texts was La Prisonnière (the Captive), in which Proust evokes the street merchants crying their various wares.
Paris is in the background of many pages of In Search of Lost Time; However, Proust's Paris is essentially the wealthy neighbourhoods of the 7th, 8th and 16th districts, the meeting places of the high society, far from the more popular places photographed by Atget. However, simpler aspects of Paris are also described by Proust, like the merchants in the streets. Atget captured a lot of them, as he was also looking for a lost time, that of an old Paris that had already disappeared or was inexorably disappearing.
The following stroll is in a very distant Paris, inside the past, where the streets and the small yards are resounding with the cries of the small street merchants. Merchants, so well captured by Atget and their cries so well described by Proust in La Prisonnière (the Captive), a title pretty well adapted to the circumstance. (April/May 2020).
The Captive - The street cries of Paris
"Outside, popular themes skilfully transposed for various instruments, from the horn of the mender of porcelain, or the trumpet of the chair weaver, to the flute of the goat driver who seemed, on a fine morning, to be a Sicilian goatherd, were lightly orchestrating the matutinal air, with an Overture for a Public Holiday."
The Captive - Proust
Lamp shade merchant
"It was true that the fantasy, the spirit of each vendor or vendress frequently introduced variations into the words of all these chants that I used to hear from my bed. And yet a ritual suspension interposing a silence in the middle of a word, especially when it was repeated a second time, constantly reminded me of some old church."
…the tinker, after enumerating the pots, pans and everything else that he repaired, intoned the refrain:
Tam, tam, tam,
c’est moi qui rétame,
Même le macadam,
C’est moi qui mets des fonds partout,
Qui bouche tous les trous,
Trou, trou, trou ;
Rataplan, Rataplan, Rataplan,
I repair any pan,
Bim, Bim, Bam,
Even the macadam,
I mend all casseroles,
I fill all the holes,
Holes, holes, holes;
" Fortunately, Albertine, partly from inconsistency, partly from docility, quickly forgot the things for which she had been longing, and before I had time to tell her that she would find better oysters at Prunier's, she wanted in succession all the things that she heard cried by the fish hawker:
« A la crevette, à la bonne crevette,
j’ai de la raie toute en vie, toute en vie.
Merlans à frire, à frire.
Il arrive le maquereau, maquereau frais, maquereau nouveau.
Voilà le maquereau, mesdames, il est beau le maquereau.
A la moule fraîche et bonne, à la moule ! »
Shrimp, fine shrimp,
I have skate all alive, all alive.
Whiting to fry, to fry;
Mackerel's arrived, fresh mackerel, new mackerel.
Here's mackerel, ladies, beautiful mackerel!
Mussels, fresh and fine, mussels!"
"And to think that we shall have to wait two whole months before we hear:
« Haricots verts et tendres haricots, v’là l’haricot vert »
Green and tender beans, fresh green beans!
… the vegetable woman who came next announced: …
A la romaine, à la romaine !
On ne la vend pas, on la promène."
They’re not for sale, they’re just for show
“…replacing the sweet-seller who usually accompanied her song with a rattle, the toy-man, on whose military cap was mounted a puppet which he moved in all directions, was showing off other puppets ..."
« Allons les papas, allons les mamans, contentez vos petits enfants ;
c’est moi qui les fais, c’est moi qui les vends,
et c’est moi qui boulotte l’argent.
Tra la la la.
Tra la la lalaire, tra la la la la la la la.
Allons les petits ! »
Come on Dad, come on Mum,
Look, the kiddies’ best friend has come.
You’ve got the pennies, I’ve got the toys,
All home-made for your girls and boys.
Tra la la, tra la la la lero
Tra la la la la la la la.
Come on boys and girls !
" The emotion that I felt grip me when I caught sight of a wine-merchant’s girl at her desk or a laundress chatting in the street was the emotion that we feel on recognising a goddess. Now that Olympus no longer exists, its inhabitants dwell upon the earth. And when, in composing a mythological scene, painters have engaged to pose as Venus or Ceres young women of humble birth, who follow the most sordid callings, so far from committing sacrilege, they have merely added, restored to them the quality, the various attributes which they had forfeited. "
C'est à nouveau un merveilleux voyage du Palais Royal à la Butte Montmartre... Merci Martine pour ces belles découvertes!
I hope I will have the time to run the course next weekend when im in Paris as a turist from denmark
L'enseigne de la Galerie du Chat était au 27, rue de Bièvre, magasin d'articles ayant pour thème le chat. L'enseigne a disparu depuis que le magasin a
déménagé au 68, bv de Port Royal.
Bonjour, je suis a la recherche de la rue de l´enseigne "la galerie du chat". Est-ce une galerie ou un restaurant-café ? L´enseigne correspond-elle a un lieu encore existant ? Merci à l´avance . Ma