Category Archives: books

Visit Alberto Giacometti’s studio at Paris Centre Pompidou

For a few years the Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation has been mostly known for its erratic functioning, but this time, its collection presented at Centre Georges Pompidou is a gorgeous event.


This great exhibition entitled “L’Atelier d’Alberto Giacometti” was inspired by the beautiful book written by Jean Genet in 1957.

livre-genetjpg.jpgphotos d’Ernest Scheidegger

We go through all the artist’s different periods, from his early paintings, his abstracts and surrealist works,

femme-cuiller.jpgla femme cuiller

to the best known part of his work, his fascinating thin figures,

cat_by_giacometti.jpgle chat

l’homme qui marche

his portraits,

tete-noire.jpgTête Noire

Following its title program, the exhibition shows photos of his Paris studio, 46 rue Hippolyte Maindron, and its meticulous removal in 1966 after Giacometti’s death.

giac-cartier-bresson.jpgPhoto de Cartier-Bresson

It shows also pieces of furniture and painted walls taken from the studio.


All works are well presented in large and well lighted rooms.

annette-expo.jpgAnnette standing in front of a Paris view through the window.

Centre Pompidou, place Georges Pompidou, metro Rambuteau tel 33(0)1 44 78 12 33. Open everyday except Tuesday 11 to 21, up to 22 on Thursday. Entrance 10 euros for all the temporary exhibitions and its great permanent Modern Art Collection. But don’t try to see everything in a row, or you’ll get dizzy and exhausted.

L’Atelier d’Alberto Giacometti, galerie 1, niveau 6, up to February 11

Fore more information, and reservation :

You can find “L’atelier d’Alberto Giacometti” par Jean Genet on


Paris : Stormy birthday party for Simone de Beauvoir!


Simone de Beauvoir would have been a hundred year old in 2008, if she had lived that long. Her major contribution to non-fiction literature, “the second sex”, published in 1949, has nourished the feminist movements of the seventies, and is still a reference.



This anniversary was celebrated by two interesting documentaries on public cultural French television channels (“la 5” and “Arte”), and by literary press.


In this harmonious appropriate praise concert, the false note came from “le Nouvel Obs'”, which is not exactly a tabloid.


What? Scandalous she may have been in her writings as well as in her life, but she was never known as a play mate. So rose the first protest choir : How shameful it is to dig out this nude picture of a dignified writer and put it on first page, just to sell more copies !

Then, of course, the original photo came out, which started a righter contest : the real indecency was to use Photoshop to model her figure according to modern taste.


It seems that Simone de Beauvoir never asked for this picture to be taken, but was not really mad at Art Shay : he was a professional photographer, a friend of Simone’s american lover Nelson Algren, and she left the bathroom door opened.

I don’t know if it was appropriate to put this picture on a front page, but I think it was certainly not to modify it, for it’s a really good picture. For myself, I am glad that it came out. I think it makes her look really cool, just pushing up her hair looking in the mirror, feeling just comfortable to stand naked and not bothering to close the bathroom door. It reminds us that she was not only a solemn thinker, nor her life time companion Jean-Paul Sartre eternal “girl friday”: she had the unconventional way of life which matched exactly with the ideas expressed in her writings, and she never tried to hide it (which can’t be told of all male writers).


Shay’s beautiful portrait of Simone de Beauvoir in Chicago in 1952 is as accurate as the more conventional ones. To read his version of the facts, go to :

To get an idea of the passion it rose, go to :

We’ll never know what she would have thought about this. “Much ado about nothing”, maybe?

And by the way, did you read “the second sex”? If you prefer the english version, go to :


Paris Montmartre for newcomers

If you really want to feel like a regular tourist, the easiest way to visit Montmartre is to take a 40 minutes tour on the little city train.


You will take it place Blanche, and it will get you back there, next to the Moulin Rouge which is the last of Montmartre legendary cabarets.


The other ones no longer exist except on posters.


Another way to start visiting Montmartre could be to come to light at Metro Abbesses, on the lovely place des Abbesses,


If you don’t feel like walking all the way up, go the “funiculaire” station, and wait for it to come listening to the inevitable accordionist.


For a bus or metro ticket, it will take you up to the Sacré Coeur.


But you might as well walk around.


For example, take rue des Abbesses and rue d’Orsel, up to the charming place Charles Dullin, where the théâtre de l’Atelier stands, which besides being pretty and in a nice setting also often shows good plays.


Going up rue des trois Frères, you can stop for lunch or for a drink at the Progrès. If you can get a table, you’ll notice that some of the customers are French, and even Parisians, which is not the case of all Montmartre cafés.


Now you might feel strong enough to climb up the stairs, which is the hardest but the nicest way to get uphill.


Being on top of butte Montmartre,The Sacré-Coeur church is part of Paris scenery.


This huge white ugly church was built “to expiate the crimes of the communards “, number of which died on the spot, and in memory of French soldiers killed in the war against Prussians. Though it’s edification started in 1875, it was not finished until 1914, and consecrated only in 1919, and all the way it had a warlike, revenge, anti-German purpose, and I always think of it as unpleasant, though it’s very popular. But of course, sitting on the stairs back to it, you can’t see it, but you have a view on Paris.


I prefer to walk in the little garden below where stands a statue of Chevalier de la Barre, an unfortunate nineteen years old boy who got sentenced to death and tortured in 1766 for not taking his hat off in front of a procession. Voltaire wrote about this terrible case, and had to to run away to Switzerland not to be convicted of crime. French Revolution rehabilitated Chevalier de la Barre who has become ever since a symbol for all atheist groups.


Don’t bother to visit place du Tertre, it’s impossible even to look at it, for all space is completely filled with stalls selling junks and daubs and people offering to paint your portrait. I should advise you to refuse, and go by without stopping at any café or restaurant.


But close to it are lovely little quiet streets.


A peaceful public square with its strange statue of Saint-Denis holding his chopped head in his hands.


Place Marcel Aymé, Jean Marais carved version of the author’s “Passe Muraille“(Man getting through walls) seems ready to shoot in soccer ball.


It’s closed to wealthy and secured places.


At this Avenue Junot corner, film maker Claude Lelouch has opened “Cine 13, a place where you can show or look at films or theater plays, and have a drink.


If you look closer, you’ll discover on the wall this lovely art-deco figures mingled with branches.


Go back down by rue Ravignan and place Emile Goudeau where there is nothing left of the “Bateau Lavoir” where Picasso spent evenings with Max Jacob, Apollinaire and Douanier Rousseau. It’s a pretty place, though.


If you wish to feel what this long lost time of artists life in Montmartre was like, I strongly recommend you to read Dan Franck‘s “Bohèmes“, subtitle : “Modern Art adventurers (1900-1930)”.


I don’t know whether it has been translated in English, but it’s quiet easy to read in French. It’s available in paperback “livre de poche n°30695)

And go to the Orangerie Museum to look at Utrillo‘s ideal Montmartre.

utrilloplace-du-tertrejpg.jpgPlace du Tertre 1910

utrillorue-ravignan.jpgrue Ravignan 1910

“Petit train de Montmartre”everyday 10 to 18, one departure every hour place Blanche, tour 40′, see information at :

All about Moulin Rouge, programs and reservation at :

Théâtre de l’Atelier, 1 place Charles Dullin, 75018 Paris, Métro Anvers, tel 33 (0)1 46 06 49 24, programs and reservation at :

Café restaurant “le Progrès” 7 rue des 3 frères, 75018 Paris tel 33(0)142 51 33 33 Reservation 33(0)1 42 64 07 37

More about “Ciné 13” at :

And Montmartre has its website :

Hell’s gate wide open at Paris National Library

Paris National Library historical site rue de Richelieu (just behind Palais-Royal gardens) was getting too small and obsolete so it has been completed by “the Very Large Library”, on east southbank. It was first opened to public on 12/20/1996 and the transfer of most collections was achieved in October 1998.


Designed by Dominique Perrault, it is made of four 79 meters high towers, each closing a private garden corner and figuring an opened book : The Tower of Times, The Tower of Law, the Tower of Numbers, and the Tower of Literature.


And beneath this noble knowledge, Library’s Inferno : locked rooms where are hidden books supposedly dangerous to read or to look at .

Since December 15, and up to March 2, all these shocking texts – among which well known by Marquis de Sade, Guillaume Apollinaire or Georges Bataille – as well as hot pictures, engravings and photos are exposed to all visitors over sixteen.


Echoing this X rate exhibition, RATP has brought back to a form of life its completely forgotten station “Croix Rouge” (red cross) – nothing to do with the charity organization, but named after the place where its entry was located, between Mabillon and Sèvres-Babylone. No trace of it outside, no mention on any map, it has been closed since world war 2. Up to January 15, all passengers of line 10 can get “a sensory experience” (quite a Lynchean concept) for the price of subway fare.


The ghost station is animated with red veils waving in a pink light, coming suddenly into view and shortly fading in the dark. If the driver slows down you might even take glimpse on some licentious picture.


L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque : Eros au secret, Bibliothèque nationale, site Mitterrand, 11 quai François Mauriac 75013 Paris, Metro Bibliothèque François Mitterrand, tel 33(0)1 5379 59 59. Everyday except Mondays, Christmas Day, January 1, 10 AM to 19 , Sunday 13 to 19. Entrance 5 euros, forbidden under sixteen. For amateurs, beautiful catalogue : 38 euros. For more information, go to :

Subway line 10 : Gare d’Austerlitz – Boulogne Pont de Saint-Cloud. Ghost station between Mabillon and Sèvres-Babylone.

Paris Saint-Sulpice, Arcimboldo and le Café de la Mairie

Let’s say, for example, that you just get out Musée du Luxembourg after visiting the magnificent Arcimboldo exhibition. (I should advise you to make a reservation before noon or after 7.30 PM and avoid Wednesdays and winter vacations not to find exhibition rooms as crowded as a subway station at rush hour. But it’s definitely worth while.


It’s sunny outside, and what better path to get to Saint-Sulpice than l’allée des Séminaires, where you haven’t got a chance to meet a seminarist. It’s a quiet art deco garden along rue Bonaparte.


When you get place Saint-Sulpice, at first you might feel disappointed, for nowadays (November 2007) and likely for a few months, you won’t see much of it : a large tent covers the fountain during its restoration, and the church almost disappears under scaffoldings (north tower is being restored).

But there is still a place worthwhile visiting : at the corner of tiny but lively rue des Cannettes, Le Café de la Mairie and it’s sunny terrace are waiting for you.


The upstairs room was the setting of a long treacherous seduction scene by Fabrice Lucchini on Judith Henry in “la discrète“, a 1990 french film by Christian Vincent .

The bar is the theater of endless speeches and day dreamings, dimmed by tobacco and booth haze in Djuna Barnes master piece “Nightwood” (1937).

In 1974, October 18 at 10.30 am, French Oulipo author Georges Perec sat there with a notebook, a pen and some change, and kept watching around until October 20 , writing ” Tentative d’épuisement d’un lieu parisien”. (Attempt to be exhaustive about a Parisian place).


It’s a magic place, haunted by lovely ghosts, and it’s still a writers’ as well as a fashion addicts café.

Just sit down in the sun, rest and dream a while, have a drink and may be a fresh and nice snack.

Le Café de la Mairie, 8 place Saint-Sulpice 75006 Paris tel 33(0)143 26 67 82, open everyday 7 am to 2 am , Saturday 8 am to 2 am, Sunday 9 am to 9 pm.

Arcimboldo exhibition up to January 13, Musée du Luxembourg 19 rue de Vaugirard metro Saint-Sulpice : Monday, Friday, Saturday open 10.30 to 22, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 10.30 to 19, Sunday 9 to 19. Tel : 33(0)1 45 44 12 90.

Reservation on :

If you haven’t read Djuna Barnes’ “Nightwood”, go to your bookshop or order it on

You’ll find many books by Georges Perec translated in english, but not “Tentative d’épuisement d’un lieu parisien” published in french by Christian Bourgeois.