Monday, July 17, 2017

Paris Journal: “Je vote France Insoumise”

“I vote France Unbowed” (or Untamed, Defiant, Rebellious, Indomitable, Unsubmissive)

By Moristotle

Remembering the Moroccan food at Ménara in my last entry (“Auvers-sur-Oise”) put me in mind of another Moroccan lunch we had in France. But I’ll write about our first Saturday in Paris (June 3) in the order of its leisurely events.
    There being nothing specified on our itinerary for the day, we went shopping in the morning, first stopping at a grocery store, Champion, which our friend who owns the apartment told us is now owned by the big chain Carrefour. We would on another occasion buy there some store brand sauce vinaigrette that we had found in our friend’s refrigerator (and would finish off), but we didn’t buy anything this day.
    We did, however, discover a nice community park, Square Léon Serpollet, that we hadn’t noticed last year – one very well accoutered with recreational facilities, for both children and adults:

The park had a couple of signs acknowledging horrors of the Nazi occupation:

    Our friend had pointed out last year that Paris has not tried to cover up what happened during the Nazi occupation of France, and many such signs are posted in the city, on the theme “Ne les oublions jamais” (“Do not forget them, ever”). The closest one to our apartment, less than 100 meters down the street, is on a school building:

To the memory of the pupils of this school [who were] deported from 1942 to 1944 because they were born Jewish. [They were] innocent victims of Nazi barbarity and the Vichy government.
    They were exterminated in the death camps. More than 700 of these children lived in the 18th arrondissement [the borough of Paris in which we were located].
We left the park, across Rue Marcadet from Champion, and continued walking to our favorite grocery store, Monoprix, on Rue de Poteau, where we loaded up with bread, coffee, water, toilet paper, and facial tissues.
    The water, in a 5-liter bottle costing the equivalent of about $0.95, was perhaps our most frequent purchase at Monoprix. I put it and as many other items as would fit into my backpack, and my wife carried the rest in our Monoprix shopping bag, which we had taken home last year and brought back with us this time. With our load, we weren’t about to walk back – even if it had been downhill rather than literally back up the northern slope of Butte Montmartre – so we walked two blocks to the nearest bus stop to catch a Pigalle-destined, local “Montmartrobus.” We had learned last year that it could drop us off about 200 meters from the apartment.

To reach the bus stop today, however, we had to wend our way through a throng of election campaigners distributing flyers for the upcoming parliamentary elections. A woman handed me the one shown at the top of this post. I asked her whether she supported President Macron, and she made a face. I frowned, suspecting she supported Marine Le Pen, but she said no. “Further Left.” I smiled. And she (taking me for an American) said, “You have your own problems.” Now I made a face, too.
    It was a nice moment of political solidarity across the Atlantic. [Note: the various translations of “Insoumise” shown in my subtitle come from the Wikipedia article on the French political party, La France Insoumise. I do not pretend to understand French politics; I barely understand the politics of the United States.]

After depositing our purchases in the apartment, we were ready for lunch. We walked about 250 meters to the Lamarck-Caulaincourt metro station and took the first subway going northward to the third stop, very near a covered market we had loved last year: Marché La Chapelle, also called Marché de l’Olive, because it's on Rue de l’Olive. We had discovered there a Moroccan restaurant (Traiteur Marocain, translated traditional Moroccan) at which we had Tajine on April 23, 2016:

    On this year’s occasion I took this photo of our very helpful waiter, and I’m sorry that his assistant’s face was hidden behind the bottles. I should have taken another picture. In fact, now that I write this, I wonder whether he (and she?) had been there last year, and I’m not remembering them?
    He brought us our plates (couscous with lamb). Mine (foreground) had two luscious prunes, my wife’s had citrons (slices of cooked lemons), and both dishes had many golden raisins and various vegetables, including carrots and (we think) squash. The red stuff in the bowl was for spooning onto our couscous. I ate every morsel on my plate; my wife couldn’t hold any more than about two-thirds of hers.
    I photographed a poster on the wall behind our table:

I wanted to report to our son & daughter’s families how much each plate cost, and I had been writing out “Euro” in emails to them. But while eating my couscous, it occurred to me that my iPhone probably had on its virtual keyboard the character for the Euro currency. Indeed, by holding down the $ key, voilà: [RUB]¥€$¢£₩. I don’t know what every one of those currency symbols means [there seems not to be yet an HTML code for the Russian Ruble], other than the Yen (¥), the Euro (€), the Dollar ($), the Cent (¢), and the Pound (£).
    Each plate cost 9.95€ – or, at the exchange rate then prevailing, about $11.15.

Copyright © 2017 by Moristotle


  1. Love all the pictures! And a nice park you found that you didn't see last time. It is all an very interesting account. Thanks Morris.

    1. Thanks, Vic! I realize now that the "secret" of getting on with blogging about a trip after the fact is just to "get on with it." If I had done that LAST YEAR, rather than daydream about what I MIGHT say, I would no doubt have had a Paris Journal then. As it is, now I am falling into the pattern of doing an entry every other day (apparently), and I can feel the momentum carrying me along like a tide or a river current.

  2. There is a town in France that the Nazis killed everybody in town and burned it down. The French left it as it was. It is something to walk through. I haven't thought about France for a long time.

  3. [PART 1 of long comment:]

    A friend commented that he had

    just looked again at the distressing photos of the little memorials to the victims of German occupation and criminal treatment of Jews and I assume others. While perhaps the users of these parks remember, the government appears to turn a blind eye as it climbs deeper under the eiderdown with Merkel's economic 4th Reich, euphemistically known as the EU. Do I overstate the case as France's manufacturing is wasted by Deutscheland's industrial hegemony? It's citizens staggering under high unemployment?
        I heard some time ago on France24 that over 50% of the votes in the first Presidential primary were for candidates who favor a French exit. And well they should. Love to hear your thoughts.

    I told him that my thoughts on this were inchoate, which they were and still are. But I passed his comment along to my friend who owns the apartment we stayed in. His response is illuminating:

    The history of France in the Thirties, during the relatively short time it was actively engaged in WWII, during the Occupation, and during the ensuing ~70 years, is complex and multi-layered, to say the least, and even today there is a constant stream of comment and revelation – and even, of late, commemoration.  
        I've pasted in below a NY Times article I came across the other day that touches on a bit of this.  
        When I came to France in 1974 (under the aegis of the US - France Exchange of Scientists – an NSF program which was cancelled when Reagan came into office) my knowledge of France before, during, and after WWII was very limited. To say the least.  
        Even so, and even though I encountered practically no specific mention or discussion of it during my time in France, I gradually came to sense that the Vichy period was the Ten Ton Elephant in the Room.  
        As it happened, Robert Paxton had published his revelatory book on Vichy France in 1972 (Vichy France:  Old Guard and New Order - 1940-1944). Unfortunately I was utterly unaware of it, both at the time of its publication and while I was living in Paris – though if I had paid a little more attention during my periodic visits to the Brentano English language bookstore on the Avenue de l'Opera I probably would have come across a copy.  
        It's a shame that I didn't, as it would have helped me to understand a good many of the oblique allusions (and silences) that I encountered during my residence there. 
        In any case, Paxton's book is an excellent – no, make that essential – starting point, the first (and still one of the best) of the scores of books, articles, and exhibits on the subject that have appeared since. 
        The desire of nations – or individuals – to come to terms with crimes that have been inflicted upon them by others – or that they themselves have inflicted upon others – seems to be a hard-wired aspect of the Human Condition. We only have to think of a few instances to appreciate the wide range of responses....and how those responses evolve (or fail to evolve) over time. (Turks and Armenians, Americans and Native Americans, Japan and Nanking, "comfort women," Cultural Revolution, Vichy, Final Solution....the list, alas, has no end.)  
        In many instances nothing much can be done about it after the fact. While sometimes material amends can be made – e.g., getting the embezzler or thief to cough up his loot (or what's left of it) – all the remorse and punishment in the world won't bring back the victims of a murderer.  
        So often the best that can be hoped for is some kind of acknowledgement, and some approach to closure – essential steps in the reconciliation process. Though even that can be very difficult to attain. 

    [continued in Part 2]

  4. [PART 2:]

    But to touch on another aspect of this question, how long does one "hold a grudge"? And against whom? And where does one draw the line?  
        When I was growing up, in the 40s and 50s, I remember the parents of friends vowing that they would never own a Ford, the reason being the Jew-hating vitriol spewed by Henry Ford's newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, in the 20s and 30s. (I understand that at one point the DI was distributed by Ford dealers throughout the country.)
        And then of course you have the question of German cars...(not to mention the Japanese!)  
        It wasn't that hard to boycott Ford, but as time went by it became pretty hard for the Older Generation to ignore the elegance and engineering excellence of Mercedes Benz...and, later, of BMW and Audi. 
        And so, in 1958, towards the end of my undergraduate years, my parents bought me a VW bug...the first of the long series of German cars that I have owned.  
        Even so, if I were living in Paris, and crazy enough to want to have a car, I'd probably opt for a French maker. It may or may not be a coincidence, but I seem to see a fair number of VWs and BMWs that have been "keyed"!
        Finally, as you mention, there are, scattered throughout Paris, many reminders of WWII. Little signs noting where someone was killed in August, 1944, or on a school, commemorating the Jewish students who were deported, or where a Jewish family had lived until they were arrested and deported. The August 1944 plaques were there in the 1970s, but the ones acknowledging the deportations only appeared over the past ten or fifteen years.  

    Questions of how France relates to Germany, the European Union, and its own citizens are too fraught and too complicated for me to even begin to talk about – not that I know that much – but they are a constant topic of discussion among my various French friends. Even more so than we here bemoan The Donald, the Koch brothers, and Mitch McConnell, et al.  
                Bon courage.  

    The article my friend pasted in was Alan Riding’s “When Past Is Present.” Opening paragraphs:

    PARIS — It was planned by German and French officials for July 14, 1942, until someone realized that Bastille Day might not be the best moment for a massive roundup of Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris.
        Two days later, the operation went ahead, with 4,500 French police and gendarmes seeking out foreign-born Jews at the addresses they had registered with the French authorities. By late afternoon on July 17, 12,884 Jews, including 4,051 children, had been arrested and, for the most part, locked into an insalubrious cycling stadium, the Vélodrome d’Hiver, or Vél’ d’Hiv. All but a handful would be sent to their deaths in Auschwitz.
        For most of us, memories gradually fade. With France’s wartime persecution of Jews, the opposite is happening. For years, it barely existed as a memory. Yet, thanks to the work of scholars, lawyers, artists and a handful of politicians, awareness of this deep stain on modern French history continues to grow.