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I’m not yet tired of Parisian street-life. That’s good, because it’s only four floors separating my bedroom-cum-office from a very noisy, or let’s rather say lively, street indeed.
Rue du Faubourg du Temple runs, as I’ve already mentioned, between the significant places Place de la République - where an enormous bronze Marianne La République resides with the three strong marble ladies La Liberté, L’Égalité and La Fraternité – and Belleville. Most demonstrations of whatever size start at Place de la République. When I lived next to the square for a fortnight in December, I stumbled upon a substantial number of police cars right outside my gate every third day or so. One day it was no less than 16 vans from the CRS, another day just 10 or so from La Gendarmerie, and yet another it was the Police Nationale. Only at one of the occasions did I see the demonstrators. The same happened actually a couple of days ago. I had read at Paris.Indymedia that the college students and the sans-papiers would demonstrate against the immigrations policies, so I went over to see what was happening. Maybe I was too late, because at the time I arrived there was very few lycéens to see. On the other hand, the forces of order were heavily represented; the CRS with at least 15 vans, a bus and some other equipment were creating a noisy traffic jam driving south-east down Avenue de la République (direction Père Lachaise and perhaps Place de la Nation). The demonstrations of national importance usually go between Place de la République to Place de la Nation, via Bastille – thus it’s not only the police who can stage a political struggle symbolically (however, with their Robocop uniforms they’re hard to beat when it comes to costumes).
This blog has been rather quiet for a long time now. Despite a steady increase of half finished, and half started, posts, they’ve not yet found their way to the web. My lack of inspiration for blog writing has perhaps been due to the intermezzo-like character of the autumn. I’ve for the most part stayed in Oslo, trying to reintegrate into the office environment at the university after having been autonomous fieldworker for almost two semesters. In terms of writing and reading, and even thinking, the reintegration has not been very fruitful. One of the few things I’ve got around to do, was to present my research so far at a handful of occasions. Writing and getting feedback on these presentations (they don’t deserve the term “paper”), I’ve come up with a few themes to focus my attention around. As this intermezzo is coming to an end and I’ll get on with phase two of my fieldwork, this is a suitable occasion for a little summary.
Under me, Europe spreads, slightly convexly, out. The cities look like illuminated versions of ancient town maps. It’s such a nice weather to fly in. I don’t feel like doing what I usually do on this 2 hours and 20 minutes flight between Paris and Oslo, (which is to go through the generous little pile of newspapers Air France is providing – Le Monde (centre-left, a bit intellectual), Le Figaro (right), Libération (left, 68-ish) and once in a while L’Humanité (communiste) or the economist paper L’Echo. There are always a number of issues very relevant to my thesis. Instead, I’ll flash around with my chic (loaned) white MacBook and get some writing done.
As some might have discovered, I’m not exactly flooding this site with new texts at the moment. That’s because I’m busy writing some other stuff (in fact nothing less than starting on la grande oevure which will be my thesis in due time…), before I’m off for Paris again in a few weeks. Right now, sitting in my green coach, googling for some information for a text I must hand in over the weekend, I wish I were already there. Not because writing this text is so terrible, not at all, but because Toni Morrison has been at Louvre, and last Friday she invited along a number of slam poetry artists to slam about classical French paintings and about being étranger chez soi (translated “a foreigner’s home”).
The free newspaper 20 minutes has published a quite nice photo series of the event.
I found the series here (while searching for Café Culturel in Saint Denis for my text in fact). (Excellent site for finding info on the French slam scene by the way, but I’ve got to get back to my text to be handed in soon, no more getting lost at the web for me…).
Well, just one more remark: The French urban art forms seem finally to get a little bit of highbrow acknowledgement. The day I left Paris, at the 13th of October, Le Grand Palais (Eng.) invited in the street, and dedicated a whole weekend to rappers, skaters, graffiti artists, and yes, slammers: La rue au Grand Palais. – A lot to be said about this, of course, but not now.
I just found out that Mary Stevens has written an interesting post on another event during Toni Morrison’s residency at Louvre in her excellent research blog. Amongst other things, I learnt that it’s not the English title “A Foreigner’s Home” that is a strange translation of the French, it’s the other way around:
From the start, the title chosen by Morrison for her residency caused much debate. In English the title is ‘The Foreigner’s Home’; this has been incompletely rendered in French as the much more limited ‘Etranger chez soi’. The use of the apostrophe makes the English much more interesting: it implies both possession and a temporal relation (’the foreigner has come home’ - and hence is perhaps both foreign and no-longer foreign at the same time). It could also perhaps be read as a comment on the nature of museums, particularly in the post-colonial context. In addition, the English seems to me to place the emphasis on the concept of home, whereas the French stresses the ‘etranger’.
Today I’ve had a quick look at two extremes of the French slam phenomenon. First, I went to an atelier slam in a local activity centre ( Centre d’animation) close to where I lived until August. For two hours every Tuesday, MC Tsunami, the orchestrator of various slam soirées and host of the website planteteslam.com, leads a workshop for youth in Eastern Paris. (However, as he told me, and as I could observe myself, most of those coming have strictly speaking passed the age of youth).
Sunday I went to see a poetry performance at a theatre: AC! En nos âmes et consciences (“In our full conscience/honesty”) – Since the audience don’t participate and perform their own texts, it’s not slam, as the two poet performers explicitly told us yesterday. The distinction between slam sessions (democratic and interactive) and poetry shows is important and stressed by many artists. However, many of the recent newspaper articles on slam don’t seem to get this distinction for some reason. –
It’s around midday a sunny Saturday in October. The terrace of my regular café-cum-office is still in the shadow, so I decided to take a stroll up the food market which is situated in the middle part of the boulevard. I’ve probably written about these foodmarkets before, but I’ll do it again – this time coming straight from Eastern Oslo and I find their abundance even more striking.
I’ve just been to see the film Indigènes. I don’t cry very often at the cinema, but I must admit that I had problems stopping weeping during the last part. I, and probably the rest of the audience, knew just too well how the film would end and how the story it self would go on for decades afterwards. I saw it on a cinema nearby, with pensioners (white) and local lycéens (of all colours). It shows on 31 cinemas in Paris, with 4-8 screenings each + two in the weekends.