[It was written during my time as a Visiting Scholar at the American University of Paris.]
I am sitting in a café/bar called Le Comptoir des Saints-Pères in the area of the so-called Left Bank of Paris known as Saint-Germain-des-Prés. I am keeping an eye out for the spirit of James Joyce who, according to Ernest Hemingway, ate regularly at this address in the 1920s when it was a bit more fashionable and when it was known as Michaud’s. Hemingway sets the scene in his memoiresque narrative A Moveable Feast: “It was where Joyce ate with his family then, he and his wife against the wall, Joyce peering at the menu through his thick glasses holding the menu up in one hand; Nora by him, a hearty but delicate eater; Giorgio thin, foppish, sleek-headed from the back; Lucia with heavy curly hair, a girl not quite yet grown; all of them talking Italian.”
|Les Deux Magots|
Carved from a twenty-ton block of stone by celebrated sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein, the tombstone—a nude “flying demon-angel,” as Epstein described it—was initially deemed indecent by French authorities and covered with a tarpaulin. Over the past century it has been vandalized, and in recent years it has been defaced by admirers of Wilde leaving lipsticked kiss marks on its surface. In 2011, officials at the cemetery constructed a glass case around the gravesite: now the glass is smeared with kisses. In death, just as in life, peace has not come easily for Oscar Wilde.