top of page

Texts by   Sophie Vianey 

To Ojīsan


I decided to go and meet him one fine November evening. Obviously I knew that I would not find him, that he would no longer be there to accompany me in this Paris that he had made me love, this Paris that I spelled with his voice and would guide me during four beautiful seasons, four seasons in his footsteps, and during which we would hold hands, and for only music, his voice, thread of our unbreakable bond.

Les Champs Élysées.jpg


Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8th arr.


I wanted to see Place de l'Etoile again, because of its name, which had always intrigued me.

As a child, I imagined it shining bright enough to light up the whole city until he showed me a photograph and said, "Listen to what this says and doesn't show: 'In the month of June 1942 , a German officer came up to a young man and said to him: Excuse me, sir, where is the Place de l'Etoile? The young man pointed to the left side of his chest.



The Citroën dealer's shop on the Champs-Elysées., 8 th arr.


He loved automobiles, the soothing smell of leather that he no longer found today. Sometimes I caught him rubbing the underside of his car seats with an old rag that he had soaked in a few drops of leather essence. One day when he was driving me to school, he proudly said: “you smell the good smell, it's like the perfume of a beloved woman, it takes us to the end of the world”. But we didn't go beyond school.


Once parked, he showed me a Citroën and sighed: “Who remembers Rosalie driving around in the 1930s, and her logo of the swan sailing in front of the rafters? Each era has its own signature. So I decided to write down each brand logo, their evolution through the ages, in a notebook and give it to him on his next birthday. I know that for a long time he kept this little notebook of moleskin in the glove compartment of his cars as he changed them.

Parc Monceau-5.jpg


Place de la Concorde, 8th arr.


Despite the snow, it was mild that winter when we crossed the Place de la Concorde. I held his hand tight in mine lest he slip on this almost immaculate carpet.


Suddenly I stopped, imagining the blood on the cobblestones, fleeing the ghosts of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, that of Robespierre, executed on this same square formerly called Place de la Révolution. Then I raised my head and met Ojisan's gaze, we were fine. We had to appreciate the winter as it came.

sans titre-3.jpg


Place de la Concorde and the Madeleine church, 8th arr.


He and I shared the same passion for musicals. In my wildest dreams I imagined that one day I would dance to a Gershwin tune like Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly in An American in Paris. Here the Fountain of the Rivers, to the South the Fountain of the Seas, Paris belonged to me, I replayed the final scene, I was Louise in Jerry's arms, nothing mattered anymore, I was a star, the place of Concord.

café place clichy.jpg


Bistro Place Clichy, 17th arr.


Whether it's windy or snowing, Ojīsan often gave me an appointment in one of those Parisian squares that he loved so much. We walked for a long time before earning a coffee, in one of those sheltered corners of the city of which he had the secret, where we weaved interminable conversations like others weaved a few budding loves at neighboring tables. So much is played out in the privacy of a public place. The anonymous walls, the hubbub, protected us from a certain gravity, giving our confidences the elegance of lightness.



Boulevard des Capucines, 9th arr.


On November 27, 2015, the sun had not yet set when we found ourselves in front of the Café de la Paix. Ojīsan wanted to take advantage of the light again, and rather than sit around a hot chocolate that he invariably accompanied by a millefeuille, we took the boulevard des Capucines and walked until nightfall. Each store sign competed with superlatives to announce dizzying price reductions. Just a few days before the terrorist attacks that struck Paris, this "Black Friday" had turned into "XXL Day" out of modesty towards the victims, I wanted to believe. Black Friday, grumbled Ojīsan, how can we be moved by this consumerist celebration without measuring the consequences, how can we subscribe to this hysteria, how can we believe in it?

At this precise moment, among a thousand busy heads, we met Alain Souchon. For a bit I would have said that there was no coincidence, and hummed "Sentimental Crowd". Then with a smile of which he had the secret, Ojīsan murmured: “A man is rich with everything he can do without. »

Fleuriste place de la Madeleine-3153_DxO.jpg.webp


Place de la Madeleine florist, 8 th arr.


From a very young age I drew sunflowers, everywhere, on my school notebooks, with lipstick on bathroom mirrors, in the corner of a damaged table, on the steamy windows of trains, but never again did I I had picked such crazy ones, and never such crazy suns will have burned my hand, but thanks to a miracle, I bowed before the prodigious order of a flavescent nature.



Church of the Madeleine, 8th arr.


I had sometimes run to the Church of the Madeleine, for a few prestigious ceremonies, funerals of illustrious men or women, but I had never discovered its secret.

I had to wait for an April noon. We were looking for a place to have lunch, but at this hour already, the restaurants were teeming with hungry customers, and our favorites were full.

Mischievously, Ojisan led me to a back door located on the side of the church, and amazed, I discovered that the crypt, steeped in history, housed a restaurant where a heterogeneous clientele feasted elbow-to-elbow, where the poorest n don't have their plate less full than that of the well-to-do sitting at the next table, and for a pittance.

The origin of this charitable action goes back to the 19th century when the Empress Eugénie, anxious to overcome poverty, decided to provide meals for her seamstresses of the Faubourg Saint-Honoré, famous and modest midinettes, in the corridors from the church.

Parc Monceau-16.jpg


The Arc de Triomphe from Parc Monceau, 8 th arr.


On February 18, 1806, Napoleon wrote to the Minister of the Interior, Champagny:

"You will spend 500,000 francs for the erection of a triumphal arch at the entrance to the boulevards, near the place where the Bastille was, so that on entering the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, one passes under this Arc de Triumph.

Faced with the hostilities of the minister and the architect Jean-François Chalgrin responsible for drawing up the plans, Napoleon replied on the following May 9:

— Monsieur Champagny, after all the difficulties there are in placing the Arc de Triomphe on the Place de la Bastille, I agree that it be placed on the side of the Chaillot gate, at the Étoile, except to replace the 'Arc de Triomphe on the Place de la Bastille by a beautiful fountain, similar to that which is about to be erected on the Place de la Concorde.

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile will be inaugurated on July 29, 1836 for the sixth anniversary of the Trois Glorieuses.

escalier foyatier_6238_1_1.jpg

Foyatier staircase, Montmartre, 18th arr.


Montmartre is worth it. We never took the funicular to get there; like a ritual, climbing the stairs of the rue de Foyatier, we silently counted the 222 steps leading to the Sacré-Coeur, as if one fine day it might run out. It was our Everest, our Mount Chimborazo, and finally on the Butte, we savored our reward for a moment. But very quickly we moved away from the crowd and took the side roads that unfolded the memories of another century, playing with the shadows of Prévert or Picasso before inviting us to their table.


Eiffel Tower, 7th arr.


I was still a child, Ojisan in the prime of life, when he decided to take me to Paris to celebrate July 14th but also, and above all, to take me to dance at the firefighters' ball the day before. He wanted to do it big and surprised me with a dinner on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. After the meal, which I remember as if I was still at the table, we climbed the steps to reach the elevator which took us 279 meters above the ground. The wind whipped our faces, I was cold despite the summer, but flabbergasted I looked at Paris so big, but so small at my feet. Ojisan told me, like a confidence, that he was dizzy, and that it was time to go dancing. We joined one of the firemen's balls as it swarmed in Paris, Ojisan lifted me up on accordion tunes, we staggered around.


Le Pont Mirabeau

When Paris looks like a field of lily of the valley, my May Day blooms in this precise place, like a memory singing Apollinaire, and other voices. Each time I take this “arm” to go from one bank to the other, the first verses of the poet resound under my feet, dedicated to Marie Laurencin*. But it was also on the first day of May 1970 that the body of Paul Celan was found in the Seine, when he had thrown himself off the Mirabeau bridge on the night of April 19 to 20.

Built in 1893, entirely made of metal, classified as a historical monument in 1975, it offers a magnificent panorama dominated by the Eiffel Tower which seems to watch over the capital.

On one side, this peaceful part of the 15th arrondissement, its recent residences dedicated to the media, supported without complex on old bourgeois buildings, and the Eiffel Tower; on the other shore, here we are already rue Rémusat*, where the singer lived Barbara from 1961 to 1967, at number 14, before sinking more in the chic district of the 16th arrondissement.

What murmurs under our feet!


- "Pont Mirabeau", poem by Guillaume Apollinaire: "Sous the Pont Mirabeau flows the Seine. And our loves do they have to tell me remember. Joy always came after pain"...

- The singer Barbara leaves the building on rue Rémusat following the death of his mother, which inspired him, in 1972, la song Rémusat, where she evokes this double departure.


Le café de la Paix

There are places where so many shadows jostle there that it is difficult to enter it. The pomp of the Café de la Paix intimidated me less than the figure of Oscar Wilde or that of Émile Zola writing "Nana" at his reserved table. Ojīsan used to come there often in the distant time where his love for a famous ballerina led him to the foot of

the Opera until late at night.

He found her feverishly then, at the end of the performances she gave. 

It was under the gold of the Café de la paix, one evening in July, that he had asked for Valentina's hand, and that's the same place they broke up before the wedding took place, one day sorrow of the same summer.

Each time our steps led us in the footsteps of his former fiancée, Ojīsan inexorably looked up at the fourth floor of the Grand Hotel*, and repeated in a voice trembling, as if it were her own story: "Do you see, this is where Zola's heroine, Nana, so tragically found the dead ". At that precise moment I thought: the beings who are the most to us expensive are also the most mysterious.

*Now named The Intercontinental.


Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais Church

When the rumors of the city are oppressive, you have to se head towards rue des Barres, near the Seine, and cross les doors of the Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais church at the time of Matins or the Angelus. Hear the choirs of the Sisters of Jerusalem rise towards the sumptuous stained glass windows dating from the 16th century century, it's a bit of rediscovered serenity.


Le Carreau du Temple

Where are hidden the shadows of these traders from Europe from the East, and later from the Mediterranean basin, who crowded at dawn to get their location drawn, and sell their merchandise ? Where did the echo of their accented voices fade away Yiddish, Arabic, Italian or Polish? Class history worker and immigration was then written in a joyful hubbub where poor and bourgeois were doing business.

It is on the ashes of one of the last vestiges of Paris popular celebrated throughout Europe that a place has been built dedicated to sports and cultural activities, adapted to new urban face, and the appetite of the recent inhabitants of Haut- Swamp.

After many transactions, it was in 2009 that a vast  startedrenovation site dedicated to housing various associations et multidisciplinary events. But the past cannot be left behind bury so easily, and the New Temple Tile will not be ilaunched only in 2014.

During archaeological excavations undertaken in 2011 in the Templar enclosure built above a medieval cemetery, 120 tombs from the 12th century and 500 others from  were found Eighteenth century.

This place contains the tormented history of the Middle Ages at ce last millennium. A neighborhood transformed by its time, sans be disfigured anyway.


The Jacquemart-André museum

When I was a child, Ojīsan loved showing me the wonders of the Louvre museum so much that I dared not tell him how much this profusion of works of art stunned me, certainly of all its beauties, but she overwhelmed me too. We may have finished the day with a walk in the Tuileries Garden, a waffle

and a orangeade later, I thought of this visit that we made last winter at the Jacquemart-André museum.

At the height of my twelve years, as soon as I cross the threshold of cet mansion, its cozy atmosphere, I had the strange feeling of entering a private residence to which I was invited, like a privileged guest. A mysterious sweetness enveloped me, starting with this winter garden bathed in light and vegetation. We walked through the private rooms, je I stopped in front of Le Fumoir, designed to house long conversations between men after a lunch, famous sans no doubt, while the women were chatting in another living room, or let themselves be guided by Nélie, the mistress of the place, in the Florentine or Venetian room, the one that brought together some 15th century masterpieces, so dear to Edouard.

The marriage of Nélie Jacquemart and Édouard André in 1881 was a marriage of convenience, very good reasons dare I say. Édouard André, from a wealthy banking family, fit build this mansion by Henri Parent. It was in 1872 that he met the painter Nélie Jacquemart, in charge

to execute his portrait. They only married nine years later later, and the couple of collectors devoted most of their sa (their) lives to the works of art they brought back from their travels.

Nélie, distraught by the death of Édouard André 1894 while he was only sixty years old, led a fierce fight that she will end by winning, against her husband's family who tried to recover the fortune nevertheless bequeathed to his widow.

She then traveled from India to China and from China to Japan, thus enriching his collections until his death in 1912. Dans her will Nélie Jacquemart stipulated her will to bequeath the mansion at the Institut de France, and that the collections are open to the public.

In 1913, the Jacquemart André museum was inaugurated by Raymond Poincare.

The Louvre Museum. 

scoundrel way

Full speed

Crossed in 9 minutes and 42 seconds by Odile, Franz et Arthur, played respectively by Anna Karina, Samy Frey and Claude Brasseur, the heroes of Jean-Luc Godard's film, Keeping to himself.

A record broken by Eva Green, Louis Garrel, et Michael Pitt in Innocents, by Bernardo Bertolucci, with 9 minutes and 27 seconds.

Record itself beaten by the artist Beat Lippert who managed to cross the museum in 9 minutes and 14 seconds.


Place des Vosges

Time travel


When I cross the Place des Vosges, I always wonder what shadows are crossing it for other passers-by, the shadows of which men, which women, of Victor Hugo or Madame de Sévigné, or perhaps those, more contemporary, of Delphine Seyrig or Jack Lang? Ojīsan had his ritual, and I perpetuate it. Sitting on a bench in the shade of a chestnut tree, in the centre of Square Louis XIII, the better to look around this square steeped in history, my eyelids stumble over the past, and slowly close. 
... Georges Simenon was up at dawn to pen the pages of Maigret, Jean-Claude Brialy was feverishly entertaining the Tout-Paris, and on the second floor of the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée, the famous Victor Hugo was organising the capital's most sought-after literary dinners. Musset, Balzac, Vigny, Nerval, Dumas and so many other friends came to enjoy the scent of flowers wafting up to their host's windows. The grown-ups seated in the dining room never tired of re-enacting the same world that the children, Léopoldine, Charles, Victor and Adèle, discovered as they ran around the house, unless on fine days they were playing with hoops and prancing on the Place Royale, which was to become the Place des Vosges in 1870. Did they have to stifle their laughter when their father was writing Lucrèce Borgia or Ruy Blas, standing at his desk? Did they have to strain their ears to hear him join one of his mistresses in the Tournelles wing? 
Suddenly, however, I am distracted from Victor Hugo's clandestine love affairs by bursts of voices. I open my eyes, it's broad daylight. My gaze meets that of Porthos, Athos, Aramis and D'Artagnan, who have come here for a rendezvous*.
I stand up at last, indolent and rich with a new conjugation that reconciles the present with the past, these women and men I have met in the same life like so many reconciled eras. I push open the gate to the square to follow in the footsteps of other ghosts nearby, delighted to have given life a new dimension.

*Georges Simenon at number 21
*Jean-Claude Brialy at number 3
*Victor Hugo at number 6
* In "Vingt ans après", the sequel to Les Trois mousquetaires, Alexandre Dumas recounts this episode of the rendezvous at Place Royale (Place des Vosges).



Librairie Shakespeare and Company


« J’ai créé cette librairie comme un homme écrirait un roman, construisant chaque pièce comme un chapitre. Et j’aimerais ouvrir la porte aux visiteurs, comme j’ouvre un livre. 

Un livre qui les conduit vers le monde magique de leur imagination. » 

George Whitman


Aujourd’hui située à deux pas de la Seine et de Notre Dame, dans un immeuble du XVIIIe siècle, des étalages de livres fatigués adossés à la façade verte et jaune, Shakespeare and Company est encore un nid douillet, où les plus grands écrivains anglo-saxons trouvaient refuge autrefois.

L’histoire de Shakespeare and Company remonte aux années 20 avec Sylvia Beach, libraire et éditrice américaine. D’abord installée rue Dupuytren puis au 12 rue de l’Odéon, la librairie devient vite l’épicentre du Paris littéraire et intellectuel. S’y retrouvent Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, et bien sûr James Joyce dont elle publiera la première version d’Ulysse. 

Foyer de la Lost Generation à la Beat Generation lorsque George Whitman reprend le flambeau en 1951 rue de la Bûcherie*, la librairie demeure un important centre de la culture littéraire. William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso viennent y chercher le repos... Aujourd’hui encore, contre quelques heures de travail, les écrivains voyageurs trouvent ici un lieu d’hospitalité.

George Whitman meurt en 2011. Sa fille Sylvia poursuit l’aventure, en digne héritière de son père.


*Dans un premier temps la librairie est baptisée Le Mistral, mais Sylvia Beach, contrainte de fermer sa librairie à la seconde guerre mondiale, invite George Whitman à reprendre le nom de Shakespeare and Company. C’est chose faite en 1964, à l’occasion du 400ème anniversaire de la naissance de William Shakespeare.


Parc Georges Brassens


When I was a little girl, I used to wonder why old people loved squares full of children's laughter, often overflowing with shouts and cries too. No doubt because they are the mirrors of childhood, rediscovered at last. My familiar square, which enchants me every time I lean out of my window, obviously harbours the persistence of that childhood, or rather I'd say it evokes a fifth season that embraces the others. For an adult, the square is nostalgia.
But further away from my window, there's this park, in homage to Georges Brassens, which isn't where I used to play, but where Nine and Alyosha used to play. I've often photographed them to capture the intense emotions on their faces, when Nine's first knee injury or her brother Alyosha's first steps.
Their pride at each new learning experience, but also sometimes their boredom, the arguments over who would be first to climb the ladder or grab the blue scooter that Gaspard preferred to hand over to someone else, just to measure the importance of his possession. The park is about wiping away the pain of rejection and arming yourself to overcome disappointment.
I sensed, from the way they occupied the play area, how they would approach the world and offer themselves to it in a few years' time.


bottom of page