11.1.92 Pompidou Centre
Well, here we are again. What a city; what a day. First, basic info: arrived Thursday evening, Friday at Confortec because of my new Confortique contacts. Yesterday a washout (= work). Today I'm taking off. Up early for a walk in the grey coldish (= good) dawn. Through Les Halles, through Marais, to Place des Vosges. First time in Place des Vosges – stunning. Typical French obsession with order and regularity. Lovely colonnades, very intimate in feel – perhaps because of the low roofs. To Hugo's house – bare inside, mostly pix.
From Bastille to Louvre (I have a Paris five-day pass). To Comédie-Française, where I buy a ticket for "Iphigénie" tomorrow at 8.30pm. I already have a ticket for 6.30pm tonight: "Charlus", based on the man himself. My French is probably good enough to cope. Then to Denon wing, a small exhibition of Lully stuff, OK. Up to Musée d'Art Moderne. Nice Matisse, rest rather ropey. To Palais de Tokyo – huge photo exhibition on sculpture. Quite interesting, if exhausting.
Then to here, Beaubourg. Which I have not been to for probably 15 years. Much better than I remember it. Busy, bustling, lots to see. But before I walk around, a few important things. This place (Paris) is so wonderful that I feel I will have to do something really corny: live here for a few months – to write "Doing The Business" (DTB). It all fits. DTB is emotionally Racine-based. I bought Iphigénie today and had the idea of incorporating it and four other Racines = 25 acts in DTB (Iphigénie - the choice about whether to fire someone, Phèdre – the editor and her cub reporter).
Anyway, it looks plausible living here for, say, three months – allow £3/4000 for it, should be possible. End of this year might be good timing, not too many tourists etc. Sounds good to me...It is becoming clear to me that Glanglish II, III etc will follow occasionally. My main task is DTB etc. The other thing is Paris is probably the best place to learn Arabic for a trip in 1993. Also (here, for example) there seems to be facilities, libraries etc. Provided Is till have my NUJ card, Paris is cheap – especially cinema (I'm tempted by Dingo…)
But to the pix. First, though: note, there was a real competitive market in plays in seventeenth-century France - people producing spoilers etc (see Racine book). Exactly like magazines, exactly like business… Racine lost too… But "A comedy".
Why are the analytic cubist pix nearly monochrome: because colour would destroy the planes = the whole point. I want to produce black and white pix like these synthetic cubist works. Purest form of their art. Brilliant stuff – especially the Picasso – I must read the new biography. Up now in the cafe. Last time I was here it was really tacky. Not bad now – full of young trendies – far younger than me… Grey day out there. Paris still at its best.
I am now in a Japanese restaurant about ten yards from my hotel – for many reasons perhaps: because I'm pretty sure that I ate here some five of six years ago. Though it seems to have changed menus since then. Full of japs though...probably a good sign.
Certainly was. Absolutely yummy – and very cheap (about £5) for tea, soup, salad and huge rice and chicken "omelette" thing. Hearing Japanese spoken: makes me want to learn it. When, though? And how? I wonder if there are any bursaries for writers…?
"Charlus" was all that I could have wished. I understood about half and remembered nearly all of that. The narrator was good – not quite feeble enough; Charlus was, well, Charlus to a T. Ultimately quite moving too, the loneliness despite/because of all his power and accomplishments. Hm. Intimate theatre, below the main one.
[DTB: "can't get this mag launched until you fire him" – cf. Iphigenie…]
12.1.92 Musée Picasso
Here again again. Everything I wanted. Analytic cubism the peak for me, really – so intelligent. Practically all of his pix have a woman in it. As if trying to understand them by re-stating the problem. Also minotaurs – at the heart of the labyrinth – Daedalus, patron saint of the new… (and Theseus in Phèdre…). Some thoughts on beauty – towards a Darwinian Aesthetic. Perhaps beauty is simplicity – compare "elegant" theorems in maths. Even in apparent complexity – a Bach fugue - you seek harmony = simplicity, all parts being of the whole. Also: the power of analogy. Analogy is about finding a structure pre-existing in the brain => saves brain cells – saves new learning. Similarly perhaps beauty is about minimisation of brain cells: a smooth "simple" curve is more easily stored than a jagged one => feels nice, because the brain finds it easier to grasp. Well, it's a start…
Back in the Japanese restaurant – weak, yeah, but saves faffing before the Racine (very Noh almost…? Nearest equivalent…) - also I have a strange lingering qualm about this trip – after all, I done little real work – very little today – and I've gained so much otherwise. After Picasso, to the other side of Paris: La Défense finally. Emerging from the RER, to be greeted by this huge primitive/modern arch, climb the great tsunami of steps – immediately made me think of Boullée. Up to the roof – crazy lift. Dull exhibition up there, crazy too – and very modern. Almost like a space ship – very flash, very French – compare the World Trade Centre – dull, commercial – and in the UK, nothing equivalent. The sheer effrontery of the French planning.
To Iphigénie, Comédie-Française. Round corner for a quick cafe crème before, then unable to find toilets – and no break. Comédie-Française sumptuous, acoustics not too good (I was on 4me). Very lush inside. Acting good: Iphigénie and Achille particularly so. Even with the lousy acoustics I could understand most of it: am I there?
NB: DTB – boyfriend is nearly killed in a car crash in Brighton (cf. Hippolyte) – driving because miserable, because neglected.
Strange day – work, first – consuming microcomputer magazines, then out to RBP France to convince them to launch Windows User...hard work, but at least not completely rejected. Strangely torn today… I felt I was living a Racine play – that flip-flop, that 0/1 of the binary digit, yes/no, the indecision. How so we decide (compare most important job of boss in DTB: to be decisive – because anything can be justified, any story sold – but not a changing one.)
Then for a long walk around Place des Vosges – which I really like. Most closed. Across to the Île Saint-Louis – which looks very touristy without the touristy (paradoxical, moi?). Saw place – studio – for rent there: £100 a week...nothing… I must come here – I could live here for years at that rate. Walking, walking – and back to here, which is a place I passed just south of Place des Vosges. Whereas everywhere else just felt wrong, this place, though grubby, felt right. Turns out to have Basque specialities...we shall see.
I was overcome by an intense fatigue when talking to the RBP bloke – I really don't care. Only a sense of duty – and a rather interesting possibility – kept me going. Vegetable soup no "tres chaud". One thing: somebody told me yesterday of a Linguatheque at the Pompidou Centre – practically every language in the lab...could be convenient. ["Truc" – the word on everyone's lips.] Soup – simple, good, hot, copious. Paris, obviously, is a walker's city. Perfect for the poor. It is also the quintessential city of exile. Perfect for me….
Tuna à la basquaise– everything I could have hoped. Délicieux. A long, narrow room, bare-ish walls, except for the bullfighting posters – and on the ceiling. Music – French – in the background. Only me except for two ladies (young) who seem to be friends of the patron. Life is good (could this be the half litre of win speaking…?) [Garbure – the soup]. On the wall, weird ball catcher – some Basque game, clearly. I must go there… Basque cake to follow – very strange, very nice. This, with plums inside. Yummy.
Interesting effect in the Métro: sitting opposite two women on the other track, I can almost hear what they are saying – à la St Paul's Whispering Gallery...