Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do


                  Stranded in Metro of Paris


Down and out in Paris and London

- in memory of George Orwell -


Even if writers could free passages,

Still many shall spend life underground

While the well-off inhabitants of Paris

Can become exuberant like children

When they taste for the first time

A wonder of life touched out of curiosity

With their eyes as the city alights at night.


After the rain, once all the clouds are gone,

An open horizon can transform everything

Magic-like into anticipation for spring to arrive

Like a new comer to this city of love.

That impression of love prevails in Paris,

Even when it is freezing cold outside,

And the winter never seems to leave.


Another street scene is offered

When autumn leaves are swept up

By men using brooms large enough

To push them with the water

Running fast along the pavement,

And everything else from cans to scraps of paper

Down the gully, till they disappear there

Where drunkards collide with their heads

Against an ugly pavement’s stone,

And stock brokers or ladies in high heels

Step over them in disgust and horror,

As if mere rubbish and no more worth

A silver lining to mark the horizon.


Here, in translation, it should'n be forgotten

What Orwell wrote about being down there,

When washing dishes in a hotel kitchen

As described in ‘down and out in Paris and London’.


Hatto Fischer



Whenever walking through the streets of Paris, close to the centre, there can be imagined different layers of history, even those made up by one's own recollections of previous visits.

There used to be Les Halles when visiting Paris in 1968. That was not in May but in September. Rather than finding poetry in the streets, there were again only the cars. They make the narrow streets with a Bistro at nearly every corner appear even more crowded. These streets were not meant for that but gone were the barricades and so with time evaporated also many other memories of a way of life within a city not known really for things to disappear. Only curious is who may be buried in the famous cemetery, who not. And then not everything is about red wine, cheese and baguette, but that prevails still as stereotypical image of life in Paris and in France.



                      The baguette - an old symbol of French way of life


But during those early visits to Paris, I could not help but think of Victor Hugo. And even later, during other visits, his significance for Paris in terms of the French Revolution had not disappeared.

For that and other reasons, the dismantling of the Les Halles meant much more than just removing the belly and the daily decision making process as to what is to be put onto the table. Instead of the hustle and bustle of a lively market place, there is now a kind of semi park construction linked to one of the biggest underground metro junctions, but which in reality says hardly anything as a public space.



         The grounds of the former Les Halles

Les Halles was a key metaphor for Paris. Aside from this virtually empty public space, it was displaced by something else, something which signifies post modernity or rather the new industrial age in the arts. It is best symbolized by what replaced Les Halles as signature of the times, namely: Centre Pompidou.

When seeing Centre Pompidou for the first time in 1979, the technological impact upon the arts sprang immediately into my eye. Not only the structure of the building over emphasized that element, but the very conception of a public library indicated how things will look like in future, that is once everything has gone digital.

             Centre Pompidou



As the poet Baptiste Marray would put it, once Les Halles were removed and replaced by Centre Pompidou, life of the city was exported to the outskirts or suburbs. There is hardly any lesson to be learned from that kind of destruction since the decision was top down but can be compared to an over sized bird which swooped down to pick a prizeless piece of real estate property and left it bare after seizing Les Halles in its claws. In medium sized cities, such an airlift to the outskirts would mean relocating the retail business as is the case of most cities once the car made possible new megashops to open up along route when travelling out of town. Yet the tristesse left behind shows that those who made that decision did not really know how to fill the city's centre with new life.

Nowadays the inner part of Paris is filled, so it seems, almost exclusively by the many tourists who flock around the Centre Pompidou as if back again in the Middle Ages and close to a cathedral. Linked to that are all the kinds of little or medium sized shows put up by jongleurs and different kinds of street artists. All of them have some idea on how to make a bit of money. It is a matter of being a symbol of enticement in front of a mobile public. The latter may stand still for only a brief moment before moving on. The performances are consequentially highly sensational and lonely but intended to lift down cast eyes. The performers know there is an extra award awaiting them, if they can make the passer-bys laugh. The more talented manage even to make them forgot for a moment that they have come to the city as tourists and who shall depart within a short while after having spend a lot of money to have just a good time. That kind of street or public art acted out on on the slanted slope in front of Centre Pompidou, and more precisely where is located the central entrance to the building, competes but also adjusts to what is being offered in the many tourist shops nearby and around the Centre.

Literal descriptions will have to do the impossible, if to raise awareness for other nuances of life. It has to be reflected in ways which are not distracted by all the hustle and bustle going on a city like Paris. As globalization sets in, and one car after another moves about, more and more all major cities appear to be similar. It is sad to say it, but even in the models they strive for to make a difference in appearance they repeat but the same. Momentarily mayors of many cities have adopted simply the notion of Richard Florida and strive towards the 'creative city'. Add to this a dose of EU jargon, and immediately instead of street markets, there will be talk about 'smart squares', 'smart cars', 'smart markets' etc. Missing in that list is merely a phone which can talk back if you shout too loudly in order to be heard because the traffic noise behind drowns out nearly everything else, including the chirps of the birds in the trees.

This includes as well a scheme the mayor of Paris has adopted for the benefit of the blade runners. Every Thursday afternoon the police closes off the streets to let through a band of people all on their blades. The strange thing is more the change in sound. For a moment silence, then the rushing past of the blade skaters, till the silence is broken by a shrill whistle of a policeman and traffic resumes at normal noise level.


                  Gare de Lyon

However, there are subtle differences to be discovered as to what makes Paris appear to be so special. Ever since the clochards became known, and this amongst other things for sleeping especially during the cold winter months on the grid of the metro air shafts, since warm air would arise out of them, there was some curiorisity for these philosophers of the streets. They were not pitied or envied but treated with some respect. Society would reflect in their faces what it takes to be on the outside looking in all the time, and still have a smile left for those who would not be able to understand such an existence.

Still normal life resumes every day its traffic flow. While the ones without homes would beg, others rush to work or the tourists would flock past shops made famous by perfume and other exotic items. Their goal was to find a street cafe so that they could sit down to rest their feet.


One has to know Paris for its different quartiers retain a sense of class differences. And those who live poorly, then because the rents for houses are extremely high. Famous are nevertheless a glance over the roof tops of Paris.



                        View from Picasso's atelier in St. Augustin Street

In the past, and still today many are housed in such small apartments, that they can hardly move about in such a tiny space. Often the toilet would be outside, down the stairs a flight or two. By contrast those who can afford it, dwell in huge apartments. They are already recognizable from the outside for these buildings have a grace or aloofness. It is lend to them by having large windows looking upon trees whose leaves turn into a symphony of colours come autumn. Most of these trees are 'castanians' or chestnut trees. Children would love to pick up these chestnuts and make figures with them by sticking wooden matches into them.


Naturally Paris is marked by the Seine. The river runs right through the midst of the city. There are many famous spots. For instance, there exists near Notre Dame an island with many good restaurants and street cafes. It is a gathering place for those who enjoy outdoor life, but while sitting in one of the cafes, it can happen you can catch a moment when a mother would cast a sad glance across the river towards one of the apartment's windows. For there her daughter lives but who no longer speaks with her. Such separations mark the silent borders within a city.

Near to that island when crossing over the river to the other side, a quarter begins known for being the home of Lesbians and Homosexuals. Recently Paris was caught up in new turmoils due to demonstrations taking place against the intention of the government to legalize marriage between couples of the same sex. It was an issue seized upon by the Right with them claiming a wish to uphold and to safeguard the institution of marriage as known traditionally to be meant for only husband and wife with the aim that they could raise children. The family and social policy in France is interrelated with that aspect of how a society reproduces itself.


       View of the Notre Dame along the Seine river

There is as well known the flee market close to Notre Dame which still towers over the site beside the Seine. The church is a magnificant edifice of what religion and power can bring about and evoke at the same time. Not all would go to confession, but the church could certainly ban someone for life. It would be worse than the death penalty. A symbol for such powerful influence was Cardinal Richilieu who installed Absolutism as form of governance and was involved among other things in the thirty year war. He lived from 1585 to 1642. So he could parade his power in the Notre Dame church which opened its gate already back in 1345.



            Front view of the Notre Dame


            Back view of Notre Dame

Openness for life at night, this was what has also been associated with Paris. Aside from Irma la Duce and Montmartre's famous red light district, there were the famous cafes where writers, including Sartre, would meet and discuss. But this Paris exists no longer.



           View of Montmartre from rooftop of museum d'Orsay


The same and more so applies when compared with 1968. At that time Quartier Latin and Sorbonne University meant the birth of the Student Movement. That unrestive spirit of 1968 meant putting in doubt as to what had prevailed for too long a time as a kind of Absolutism of the state. Since Napolean this had been translated into a kind of policestate and meant after Second World War, the rulership of Charles de Gaulle as President of the Republic. Under him served Andre Malraux as Minister of Culture when the student protest nearly toppled that government.

There were students who suffered during those times but for a specific reason. One female student had a father who was a policeman. Consequently she was shunned by other students who nicknamed her the 'flick'-daughter: flick reminding of the sound a baton made when policemen were hitting demonstrators. It meant she had no chance of success as a student and therefore had to endure being silenced not only by the police, but by her fellow students.

Silence is a big philosophical topic. Michel Foucault talks about it in his book 'la folie' or the history of insanity. For anyone going against reason was silenced. That other half did not exist or if, then in psychiatry. But before 1968 came along, there was evoked already an official silence as to what happened in Algier and to those who demonstrated in Paris for Algiers on 17 October 1961. There was a brutal police crack down of the demonstrators. It is said about 200 were killed and many dead bodies ended up floating in the Seine. That slaughter was not acknowledged at that time by the official press and it took time to be discussed in public. That silence goes in conjunction with Algiers and whether the events there can be debated at all in France.

There were not only officials who went silent. Ronald Aronson in his book about the friendship between Sarte and Camus poses that question, as to why Camus went silent although he came from Algiers and his people there in need to hear from him some truth as to what would await them! Perhaps Camus wanted to avoid a blood shed but could not say a word as to what would make a difference in a situation becoming increasingly ugly once the colonial repression by France turned violent as it did?  Sartre took a different stance on this issue. He saw the colonial system installed by France as being only capable of using  brutal force to suppress any independence movement and therefore there would be no middle road possible. Sadly enough the friendship between Camus and Sartre did not last. They broke up without ever clarifying the reason why they would adopt such an uncompromising position towards the other. To date the Left not only in France, but throughout Europe suffers from this loss of a human-radical perspective. Seldom such human tones as known to Camus are carried forward in a convincing manner into politics. That is only possible if friendships can endure doubt, criticism and lack of courage. That account about Camus and Sartre involve naturally other figures, fore mostly Simone de Beauvour but also Arthur Koestler.

In the present, there are still some persons around who remind of the '68 Student Movement such as Red Danny or Daniel Cohn Bendit. He is still active as Member of the Greens in the European Parliament. Theatre director Gerold Schumann thinks Daniel Cohn Bendit can be so brilliant in debates because he approaches them out of a double perspective since equally at home in France and in Germany. While Daniel Cohn Bendit managed to strengthen the French Greens in the European Parliament during the last elections, he articulates in 2013 a new strategy. He wishes to move towards a transnational Europe in view of pending European elections in 2014. Whether that strategy will work in view of a shift in Europe towards the Euro-Sceptics and Right, that remains to be seen.

Visiting Paris in 2012, friends made some remarks as to what could be noted as a change in the political situation within Paris and France after the departure of Sarkozy and the election of Hollande. While the friction between the Extreme Right led by the daughter of Le Pen and the Extreme Left suggests a growing dissatisfaction with the course the President seems to be taking (aside from his intervention into Libya and now his advocacy for a strike in Syria), there prevails at the same time an impression France is ailing. This element of sickness was already observed by those who taught at university level. They noted already in 2010 a deterioration in atmosphere with regards to both the arts and philosophiy of life.

There is constant talk in international newspapers about France declining in real power. One example of that is an article by Roger Cohen in the New York Times. He calls it a French version of a gloriouos malaise. He quotes himself as to what he had written already back in 1997, in order to denote currently much more of the same seems to describe the malaise under which not only Paris, but the whole of France seems to be suffering under:

“France today is racked by doubt and introspection. There is a pervasive sense that not only jobs — but also power, wealth, ideas and national identity itself — are migrating, permanently and at disarming speed, to leave a vapid grandeur on the banks of the Seine.” The article continued: “The country’s manicured capital, impeccable roads, high-speed trains, glorious food, seductive scents and deep-rooted savoir-vivre provide a compelling image of wealth and tradition. But just as the golden statuary on the bridges of Paris distracts the eye from the homeless sleeping beneath the arches, so the moving beauty of France tends to mask what amounts to a kernel of despair.” (source: Roger Cohen, NY Times, 11.July 2013 - http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/12/opinion/global/roger-cohen-frances-glorious-malaise.html?_r=0)

Now it is to be expected that overt symbols and images can describe or capture at least a part of the reality, but the loss of faith in what life shall entail in near future will certainly influence even further how people shall decide to whom to give their voice come the next elections. The disenchantment with Hollande as President can be heard everywhere.

But there is a need to come back to remarks made by friends just shortly after Hollande came into office. They noted immediately a change in atmosphere once Hollande was elected President. For there vanished out of public debate the sharp rhetoric Sarkozy had used to ignite strong feelings against Roma people and migrants. That sharp rhetoric is no longer evident under the presidency of Hollande. It seems that a more tolerant openess allows for a different discourse in public. These are then some remarkable, equally often not noticed changes, whenever there is a change in political leadership. And it says something about French politics still depends upon the quality of the discourse.



                 Public monument near city hall and Notre Dame


But Paris is more than just a centre. It is an urban conglomeration with many more people living in the outskirts and therefore the endless streams of cars, trucks and buses along the major arteries connected Paris to the outer realms of this urban universe. Alone going out to Saint Denis, a neglected suburb but home of the university which was once housed in Vincenne and there a seat of opposition against any ruling power thanks to people like M. Foucault, means for a young Palestinian to be careful not to get involved in wrong fights. Provocations are always more plentiful than what any individual can cope with. And it does not end there for the unemployment and migrants living in the urban squalors of these outskirts have their own history and fights with police and the fear to end up as a nothing in a society which seems not to care about their well being.


There can be made out as well some elongated shadows along the Seine. A contrast is created by the new library since made out of glass and therefore a symbol for the kind of edifices Presidents of the Republic wish to leave behind as their legacy. But it makes no sense to house books in a glass house. Direct light is not conducive to preserving books but these irregularities are often hardly noticed by those who take the tourist boats which travel up and down the Seine while along the banks the mayor of Paris has converted them into sandy beaches, in order to give the illusion of being beside the sea. More troublesome are architectural designs for the future which foresee an elongation of urban dwellings along the Seine from Paris right to the sea: an endless stream of illusion about being connected to the sea, to nature, to still other illusions, as if the futurist grandeur can help overcome the misery felt and experienced in the present. There are many things linked to Paris which spell out some truth.


               Jeu de Paume

Jeu de Paume, or literally the house where 'a game was being played by hitting the ball with the palm of the hand', used to house the Impressionists as described by Adorno. Around that time (1973), one painter copied Renoir's 'Woman on a swing', and while doing so he said he is enjoying the genius of the painting strokes Renoir made but who had never the time to enjoy them as he rushed through to complete the painting. And it was thanks to the Impressionists who articulated the last optimistic tones on canvas before Europe was engulfed in two World Wars.


   Museum d'Orsay

Today the Impressionists are no longer housed in 'Jeu de Paume' but have been moved to the former train station of Orleans. Now the sensitive paintings hang in-between steel pillars, as if to demonstrante the overall epoche in which they painted was marked by a departure from rural life, or what was left of it due to industrialisation and urbanization. There is the abandoned house by Cezanne or one painting by Vincent Van Gogh on which captures this glance of a person standing in a field which has been harvested and looking up to a train passes by at fast speed on its way to Paris.


          Visitors in front of a Renoir painting in Museum d'Orsay

Trains have a deep significance. There is the novel by Butor called 'la modification'. It is about a French director working for the Italian firm Olivetti and hence he takes always the First Class when going by train to headquarters in Rom. There he mets a woman working for the French Embassy in Italy. He falls in love with her although married and having three children with his wife. He introduces his mistress to his wife and he promises the woman in Rom he will leave his family to come to her. Thus the story begins when he finally decides to take that huge step. Instead of First Class he takes Third Class in the train going to Rom. While travelling and looking into the faces of the different faces which fill the compartment, there are flashbacks reminding him how he entered that relationship and what has happened since. In the final end, the real modification is that when he gets out onto the platform in Rom, he decides not to see her.

Jardin du Luxembourg and Marcel Proust's 'Search for Lost Times' are linked to a melancholy which grips one when autumn leaves are swept up by winds and weighted down by rain. However, the park has undergone many transformations. One of the most curious things is what takes place behind the Museum du Luxembourg, for there retired people have set up tables for chess games. It looks practically like a kindergarten for the aged and underlines in a subtle way the full cycle of life coming slowly to the end as the beginning of everything.


            Men playing chess in Jardin du Luxembourg - behind its museum

When in Paris, it becomes clear that there are many things which I cannot forget or just tuck it away like an old book in some deeper pocket of a huge coat set afloat in a rowing boat. Somehow just vis a vis the Shakespeare Library remains stronger than ever in memory. Once you have been there to drink amidst all the book shelves and odours of many different time periods on the first floor on one of the leather couches a cup of tea, then one no longer feels to be an outsider to Paris. The place is reminiscent of when I read there Kierkegaard's proof that love is impossible, but he did not explain his theory of love as did Donald A. Schon in his book 'Displacement of Concepts'.

Thus while the Notre Dame has vis a vis its own sojourn with all kinds of heavy handed religious connotations, at the Shakespeare Library there is a kind of slumber or snooze possible, and once that is done, one awakes afresh, as if after years drenched in religion have passed by and literature can truly leave its mark. There is even a great fondness amongst all fellow travellers once that common memory of that incredible bookstore on the banks of the Seine is touched upon.

Often people come to Paris and imagine to hear again the voices of the French Revolution. Then the liberation of the citoyen de le monde meant a willingness to become 'citizens of the world!'

That was before Nationalism smoothered any other expression of political affinity, if not loyalty.

Watteau came along and preferred the facial expressions of peasants to the masks the higher nobility and richer folks wore both at home and in official gatherings.

There are other famous themes linked to Paris such as the "Flaneur" in Walter Benjamin's novel called 'Passages' and which Bunel, the Spanish film maker, used to showcase how terrorism can explode in a shop window displaying blood on laces to mark the end of virginity in a double sense. The protest against bourgeousie society goes on as the obscure object of desire entices many to follow suit, including the former President of the World Bank until he stumbled and fell, but not in Paris but in New York.

At the "Myth of the City" conference in 1994 Bart Verschaffel showed a video about the glance in such a city. He meant by this before a man could cast his eyes upon a woman, she had seen herself already ten times before in the mirror, that is prior to walking out into the streets. The glance has made in the meantime history in an intellectual sense. Martin Jay calls in his book about the detotalization of the glance "The Disenchantment of the eye" - the loss of taking pleasure in just seeing a beautiful woman standing in one of those old Parisian buses with an open platform at the back and greeting the streets of Paris.

Montmartre was associated at first with the poets and artists who lived there, but then came 21st of March 2003 when Bush and the USA decided to invade Iraq. This was a consequence of 911 and due to a political lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The weapons' inspectors of the UN were not given sufficient time by Bush and Blair for all what they wanted is a pretext to start a war. They demand full cooperation and absolute compliance from Hussein, something only a dead man can give if he does not wish to be coerced into going against his own will. Of interest is that a similar language is used all over again now that it is the fate of Assad in Syria whether or not he will comply and cooperate to the liking of the world powers.


  Gaughin, "War and Peace"                                       Museum d'Orsay 2009

It so happened that I was in Paris when the decision was announced that war in Iraq had started. I remember well that morning. I came down into the breakfast room of the hotel in Montmartre where I was staying at that time and overheard an American couple saying: "Thanks God, now this dictator is gone!" I challenged them immediately by asking them, if they would not see this is an act of revenge for 911 even though Iraq was not involved, and therefore not justifiable? The American couple ducked immediately their heads and said only in a half whisper, half mere utterance, that "we better be careful what we say out aloud here in Paris."

Most telling was on how one friend although born and raised in Montmartre ut now working in Brussels commented on this event. She doubted, if "people's souls shall be able to cope with the new burdens this war shall put on everyone's shoulders, and hence she fears that all human relationship shall suffer the dire consequences for not having withstood this going to war!" Her prediction was more than fulfilled by what happened in the years which followed 2003. Here then my poem by which I remember this specific day in Montmartre.


In memory of 911

Remember the flowers drifting down the river
while the moon had gone to bed a long time ago
to leave trees slumber in their own shadows
while the nightingale had not woken up as of yet

Remember the times when your mother sang
and shifted with her body the weight of books
lying beside your bed as if a kind of staircase
leading up to your dreams of a man on the moon.

Sorrow are the times when monsters scare children
and the only pencil available has the colour red
to mark a line not to be stepped over at school
where you learn to forget all those childhood dreams

If only the old man could complete his book of prose
weaving in and out of town like an old train hissing
when pulling out of the station and gathering speed
before disappearing into the next landscape of a painter

Many oceans were crossed before he arrived in Paris
with his only suitcase now bearing the marks of travel
and his sun glasses helping him not to be blinded by signs
advertising a way to Moulin Rouge as sign of seduction

Love looked out of the window of the little hotel in Montmartre
when suddenly the pigeons flew up all scared as the news broke
that Iraq had been invaded on that fateful day in March 2003
when the search began for weapons of mass destruction.

It happened that in the hotel's breakfast room an American couple
commented with pleasure now they will surely get that bastard
if only to be refuted immediately by a poet-philosopher
telling them off since the first to die shall be innocent civilians

After that breaking news there was a silence which bore down heavy
and the woman who sought she loved that poet-philosopher revealed
her immediate fear was this war would be too big a cross to bear
and surely that soul upholding their love will break down in time.

And so it was three years later when she ended abruptly all communication
and he made cart wheels out of pain through the air to cry out
the loss of a true love spelling the end of a chance for some happiness
which comes when a touch is not abritrary but a teasing matter to the point.

Hatto Fischer
Athens 11.9.2012


When reflecting war, there comes immediately to mind Picasso's Guernica which he painted in an atelier. The latter was basically the space underneath the roof of a school. There he survived the German occupation and let the world know the Guernica mural can never be shown in Spain as long as Franco was in power. And that was for quite a long time.




                               Picasso's atelier

Or another swift thought about war as form of violence which erupted in Algiers, there is what Ronald Aronson would describe in his remarkable book about the friendship between Camus and Sartre. He describes how Camus introduced Sartre to his world of political theatre and in so doing protected him by not dragging him any further or deeper into the underground and resistance work Camus was already engaged in at that time. The time of entry into resistance was marked by a letter Camus addressed explicitly to the German friends. He gave a moral reason as to why he decided to resist the German occupation. This addressing of Germans as 'friends' too should be taken note for it made later on, after the end of war, the work of redemption between Germany and France possible. That is a crucial prerequisite for redemption only works when there is no absolute hatred dominating the language, and a kind of moral absolutism can be avoided for life is not to be pressed into a mere black and white scheme of things.

But where are the poets? In between painters, writers, philosophers and politicians, there is this main stream of distraction since the women have an art to deceive and to deduce till suddenly love blossoms like the sweet smile of a child born amidst this hustle and bustle of a city over extended by now beyond any dream with borders. Other cities like Pecs attempt to claim that they are without any borders but Paris has the charm which can open and close at the same time important doors.

By some other angle or twist of fate, other perspectives reveal themselves like looking down the street from Picasso's atelier and marvelling at a city filled with scents and secrets. This thin veil of aura has contributed to a special charm the city has.

Prise de Bastaille

When Viktor Hugo observed the makings of the revolution, he was just as a literary person. He was also just to himself. In that way he avoided becoming overly stern with his fellow countrymen even though he was at risk to be labelled the permanent outsider. To be both inside and outside at one and the same time has remained not only the aim of writers and artists, but is also a good way to describe the relationship most people cultivate and have with regards to Paris.


Avenues in Paris

If only your arms would be flung wide open,

then I could start to run, no, begin to fly

down those avenues lined with many trees.

It is as if all the dreams in your eyes

speak to me as I had imagined it could be.

Since then your city has become a turnpike

in my life. Thoughts and emotions pass through,

enter and leave in a constant stream like a metro crowd.

As I watch people waiting on the platform, my mind is thrown

into commotion by doubts the train will not arrive on time.

Anxious to find you, I decided not to wait any longer

in the metro station. I left the platform, went

through a turnpike and up the stairs, two or three at a time.

Once out the automatic doors and into fresh air,

I found myself facing the avenues of Paris.

Amazed by so many people and still more cars moving about,

it struck me far from being a historical moment, it was a daily sight.

While everyone rushed past, they seemed oblivious to Jeu de Pomme.

In the past the Impressionists were housed there,

but after they too had moved on, it was converted

into a modern kind of museum with steps leading upstairs.

I went to see there as of late the photo exhibition by Weiwei

who loves to document his life on a blog.

Photos show him first in New York by Ginsberg

and then in Beijing marked by forgotten Mao.

As a Chinese saying has it,

if there exists no harmony with the infinite sky,

then the song pointing towards Tao cannot be heard *

these photos can start dialogues between everyday cultures,

but like all autobiographic notes nowadays, it ends

once he returns to his father lying sick in bed.

And then he depicts himself, the muscles flexed,

the arms lifted, as someone ready to smash

an ancient pot on the ground

to document a break from the past.

Now all that seems to be far away from when I came first to Paris

to see at Jeu de Pomme Renoir's woman on a swing

with efflorescent light filtering through the leaves

of a tree marked by spring. I cannot explain this contrast,

so it is of no use in trying to connect impressions then

with what is depicted today as ongoing change of a present

ever more fragmented, memory itself gone with the friends.

I see now only traffic inbound and outbound, or nowhere to go

- a constant move to leave behind mere traces like a cloud of dust.

It leaves me wondering where I shall find you amidst this maze

of a city made up by avenues having become the turnpike in my life.


Hatto Fischer

Paris March 2012


* taken from Franz Kuhn's translation of 'Chinese state wisdom'



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