literature

Art & Literature in Paris (or, Three good reasons to read this article)

No need for me to tell you that Paris is an amazing city if, like me, you love art, architecture and literature.

I only spent a weekend there recently and I thought I should talk about some discoveries that I made, as well as publish some pictures (I lost my memory card so I used my phone, low quality..).

Literature:
If you love English books, Shakespeare and Co is the perfect place to find them. The bookshop has a great collection of classics, including stories and poems from the Beat Generation (which I love), contemporary literature and non-fiction books. The staff is welcoming and very helpful.

You might even find yourself there at a time when someone is playing the piano. Surrounded by all those books, and knowing a little bit about the history of the bookshop, I felt like I had gone back in time to the beginning of the 20th century.

Art:
There are so many museums in Paris that if you are there for a weekend only, you will have troubles choosing the right one to visit. I hesitated between the Louvre (I’m French and have never visited it) and the Musée Pompidou. Because it was its 40th anniversary, I decided to visit Pompidou.

If you have never seen the architecture of the building, it is worth having a look! It is very modern (considering its age), and whether you like the style or not, the museum is very impressive among the Parisian buildings.

I loved the exhibition on Russian artists, especially the work of Vladimir Yankilevsky (click here for his website). Among other works, we were able to discover his “Anatomy of feelings” collection. It is definitely an exhibition that I would advise anyone to see.

There were so many artists that I liked, some I have written down the name but haven’t had time to look closely at their work, that it would be hard for me to tell you about them all. I can only advise to go and check them for yourselves.

Photography:
Like I have said before, I did not use my camera but my phone. The pictures aren’t perfect but they can give you an idea of what I saw (especially the view from the top of the Pompidou museum).

New project : Book Reviews

Coming soon! Because I like to write but I do not find ideas for non-fiction stories and because I love to read, I have decided that writing reviews of the books I’m reading could be a good practice.

I have studied English literature for the past 6 years so I do know a little bit about novels, short stories and poetry. Yet, I have always found it hard to express my opinions concerning the stories I was reading. By forcing myself to write on this blog, I can get better at writing and of course, expressing feelings.

And at the same time, it could give you ideas for your next book to read! I also hope that it will be an opportunity for you to give me advice on what to read.

The books I read are essentially French and English literature. The first review I am going to write will be of “Vernon Subutex”, volumes 1 & 2, written by Virginie Despentes. (I am still reading the second book at the moment and it’s really exciting).

I hope you’ll like this new topic on the blog!

Bittersweet Lullaby

Intoxicated, I love you.
Deception sobers me                                                                                            Up, and down
I find myself

Again.

The jingling of glasses,
Your voice echoing,
murmuring:

Tick-tock
Tick-tock
Tick-tock

This infinite second                         Gone
Yet so extant.

Creative Writing Story #3

Enchanted forest

The exercise was to use a usual environment (here a library) and to transform it into a “beast”, through the eyes of the main character.

It was a dangerous place to live in, dangerous but exciting. The hall was giant and you could hardy see the other side of the room when you stand at the door. The ceiling was high and the many humidity stains on it looked like stars in a cloudless sky. The room was filled with hundreds of books, it could have been thousands, all stacked up like giant sequoias, trying to reach the sky. Right in the centre of the room, a leak from the broken ceiling let the rain form a swamp and some frogs had made it their home.

I had lived there for a couple of months, maybe more. I had become an adventurer, a savage, and I was back in time when there was no electricity. I had built a shed for myself, and whenever I was hungry, I would hunt in the neighbouring forest called supermarket. I was fine in my magical forest for a while. I would climb the trees to observe nature, I would stare at the stars, lying among the sequoias, thinking of the past and dreaming about the future. I was fine, believe me, until it happened.

I remember it was during the night because I could barely see the stars in the sky – they only appeared during the day, and the trees had turned dark. I had built a fire to lighten the room and I needed more wood to make it last for the night. There was a tree called Shakespeare I was bored of, I thought it would resuscitate the fire for a long time. It was on the other side of the forest, across the swamp in an area known as the drama woods. I needed a torch so I lit a stick that was called Hemingway and I hoped it would last long enough. I was not scared because I was the only inhabitant of the land, apart for the frogs. It did not take me long to cross the forest but when I arrived in the drama woods, the sun was already rising because the stars appeared in the sky. I wondered why I should still find wood for the fire now that it was day again, and I decided I should build a stock.

It was not before I started to search for the Shakespearean tree that I realised there was something wrong. A nauseating smell was filling the area, as if there had been a dead carcass lying there for a month. I found it strange since I knew there was no animal in the forest, except for the few frogs croaking at night. The forest had become quiet. I crossed the drama woods towards the edge of the forest – I had never gone there before, and this is where I found her. I thought at first it was a trunk, but I quickly realised it was a fairy, a princess from a children’s story. She had stopped breathing.

I felt everything turning around me, I almost vomited. I was crying. I sat on the floor and trying to comfort myself by looking at the stars but reality was overwhelming. Instead of a sky full of stars, all I could see was a bunch of stains. I tried to sit against a tree but they had all disappeared. I was left in a creepy room full of books, with the corpse of my late wife.

Creative Writing Story #2

The sound of freedom

We had to choose a piece of music we liked or a food that was linked to a memory and write somthing about it.

Worried, Jack looked around him in search of his parents. All he could see instead was a crowd of tourists in a hurry that were coming and going by the carousel. Nobody seemed to notice that he was alone, they were all obsessed with their cameras, trying to find the perfect angle for the perfect souvenir photo.

On most other days, he loved Montmartre, its old merry-go-round and he loved to watch the crowd walking by the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. But it was different this time, he was lost. His parents had disappeared.

Jack decided that he should sit on a bench to wait for his parents. They would soon realize he was missing, wouldn’t they? He approached a bench on which an old lady was sitting. With a surprising energy, she was throwing breadcrumbs to the famished pigeons around her. Jack became quickly angry against everyone around him when he realized his parents were not part of the crowd.

The sun was shining in a cloudless sky and a chilly wind was blowing away the few leaves that had already freed themselves from the trees. It was a common weather for a day of October. The wind made Jack shiver. He had hardly protected his hands in his pockets when he realized that he still had biscuits his mother had given to him. In fact, he was starving.

The biscuits were envelopped in some silver foil, as his mother would do on a school day. Jack loved the texture of the foil and the delicious perfume of the chocolate that flew away up to his nose when he would unwrap the biscuits.

When he was sure that the old lady was gone, and so were the pigeons, he softly unwrapped his snack. He approached the chocolate biscuits to his nose to feel the perfume but he felt nothing. The magic was gone. Even the music arising from the carousel, that sweet music of his childhood, started to annoy him. Undoubtedly, Jack was angry.

He put the biscuits back into the foil and squeezed them so strongly that he could feel them break into crumbs. The ball he was holding in his hand gave him an idea. Since his parents were probably on their way to find him, he should have some fun in the meanwhile.

He stood up and walked to the carousel. Some mothers were placing their children on the fake horses of the merry-go-round. Jack waited for the carousel to start turning and he quickly jumped on it. Nobody noticed him. He took hold of a steel bar that was holding a white wooden horse. Again, he unwrapped the biscuits that were now in shreds and placed them with the foil on the back of the animal. Then, with a loud and childish laugh, he started throwing the crumbs on the tourists that were innocently walking by the attraction.

The show was hilarious. The confused tourist, hit by the biscuit, were glacing around in search of the guilty of the attacks. Jack was taking malicious pleasure in throwing his snack on them. The music of the carousel was resounding in his ears so loudly that he could no longer hear the voices of the people around him.

Jack was about to throw the last crumb he had to an Asian tourist when he felt a pressure on his arm. Suddenly, the carousel and the music stopped. Jack turned around to see who had ended his game. What he saw terrified and comforted him. He was not lost anymore, but it was an angry and ashamed father that had found him.

Creative Writing Story #1

It has been a long time since I wrote something on this blog. I have been quite busy moving in England and settling in my new job. Also, I have felt a lack of inspiration lately, and I was too lazy to force myself to write.

Since I have not created any new piece lately, I am publishing very short stories that I had to write for my creative writing classes in uni last year in Dublin. They are only drafts but I really like them.

Conscience of a photograph

Here, we had a photograph of a boy and a girl, sitting next to the sea, both the characters were looking away, and I imagined them as part of the youth of the 1920s in the United States.

Paul remained staring at the calm sea. He heard her moving behind him. It was a pertinent question she had asked. Indeed, what was holding him back?

‘My father,’ he started. ‘He is the one that has put a spoke in my wheel. He is the poison. The day I told him I wanted to be a poet, oh! I remember well, he cut me short. I already made plans for you and I will not comply with you insanity, he said to me. You see Margaret, my father owns a shipping company in Florida and Monsieur has decided that I should run the company when he retires. I will not, I shouted at him. But apparently, I have no choice and my voice does not count. I told him that I would flee, that I would leave to Europe but he sure knows I won’t let my little sister alone with him now that my mother has died. God blesses my mother. If only she was alive, she would have let me follow my dream. Did you know Margaret, that my mother was fond of English poetry? Every sunday, she would read me Shakespeare’s Sonnets. She especially loved Sonnet 18. Do you know it, Margaret? Oh! You should definitely read it. Oh! How I miss my poor mother!

My father never understood our interest in the magic world of poetry. I bet he has not tried hard anyway. He aspires to money and money only. Poor soul! Believe it or not, Margaret, I even wrote him a poem once. I remember it well! It started with : Once again it happened, drowned in the depths of my sorrows, I contemplated my soul. Do you know what his reaction was? He tore the paper into pieces without a glimpse towards me and he said coldly that this would not help me run a company. As if I cared about his company! You see Margaret, I don’t dream of power or money at night… I dream of travel and poetry, I dream that my father accepts me for who I am.

Oh, Margaret… Sometimes I wonder, did other poets have parents? What was Shakespeare’s father like? Certainly not like mine, at any rate!

I don’t know what to think anymore nor what to do! On the one hand, I wish I had the courage to travel abroad and be a writer but on the other hand, I cannot resolve to abandon my sister or you, Margaret. Can you imagine what my sister will become if I she falls into my father’s clutches? I understand this must be hard for you to listen to, but believe me when I say that I have no other choice.’

When he had ended his spleen, Paul turned over and looked at Margaret that had remained silent. She had a reassuring smile on her face, a smile that seemed to hide an absurd thought. She put a hand on Paul’s shoulder and said :

‘I think I have an idea!’

Into Darkness

Their souls have died,
Their minds have gone.
Into the darkness
They go, undone.
In the Chaos I force myself
To dream of magical lands:
Drops of coffee, another drag,
And in the fog I move forward.

I feel their souls observing me
And the thoughts in their minds, echoing.
A ray of hope takes over me,
Oh! so fleeting.
In the Chaos I stand again.

I dream of magical lands
With seas of coffee and endless smoke
Where their souls, in the dark, shine
Where their thoughts, in the silence, rest.
Where has the Chaos gone?

I free their souls, I calm their thoughts
In the darkness I stand alone.

Project Anonymous : the article!

Remember a couple of months ago, in relation to a project that I called « Anonymous », I created a questionnaire via Google. I asked anyone who was willing to help me to reply to some questions on life and money. Two months later, I finally have the courage to write an article gathering the answers. I even did charts!

First of all, before I give you a description of the different (and amazing) answers I received, I would like to intoduce the people that replied. To keep the project as « anonymous » as I could, I did not ask for many details on the social environment of the volunteers. Indeed, as most of the answers come from my social circles, the less details I have, the less easily I can guess who answered.

I have to say that I was not reaally surprised when I saw the distribution of the answers according to age. As I said, the answers come from people I know, or from people that study in the same university as I do. It was then normal that half of the answers come from people aged between 20 and 30. The reason why I give you a chart is for you to have an idea of the categories of people that answered… Most of them are students. Consequently, the answers are to be studied according to this variable.

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The second chart I give you concerns the gender of the volunteers. When I created the questionnaire, I intentionally add a third choice, apart from male and female. I know that there is a debate about the question of gender in many countries these days and my opinion is that male and female are concepts that were created. I do not cast doubt on a third gender or a fourth one. If someone disagrees, I would love to hear your arguments. Back to the figures, a majority of answers come from female even though the difference is small. I also received answers from people that considered themselves part of a third category, but no detail was given.

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Then, what seems important is the places the volunteers come from. We all have different cultures, different educations and these factors are to be taken into account when dealing with questions on happiness and love. Once again, the answers come mainly from places I know, such as France where I am from and Ireland where I currently live. As for the other volunteers, for the most part they come from Europe, and a few from the United States of America. I have tried to represent the percentage of answers in a chart and on a map, yellow representing a small amount of answers and red being a consistent number.

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Now, let’s enter the heart of the project. I will start with the end of the questionnaire. I offered different themes and asked the volunteers to rate them from 1 to 5 according to the importance they attach to these themes. Volunteers were asked to rate their interest in literature, poetry, cinema, music, nature, video games, sport, party, art and career. I was not sure what I would do with the numbers afterward but I felt that I should ask these questions. I have made a chart (again) showing the average of interest in the different subjects.

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What I noticed and found interesting is that even though the age average is low, the interest in video games is the lowest. This does not show in any case that there is a decrease of young people playing video games but perhaps that the people that answered are not geeks. Contrarily, they seem to have great interest in artistic and literary themes. Music makes the worlds go round and so does the cinema! Indeed, they are the two themes with the highest rate, with an average grade of 4,3 and 80% of people granting importance to them in their lives (people that voted 4 and 5). As for the other themes, I let you have a look on the results. As I said before, I was not sure how to deal with the numbers but it is good to have them.

What is your definition of happiness?

I have hesitated a lot to know how I would present the results to the open questions : should I make a summary of the replies or should I just list the answers. The difficulty of doing a summary is that I have asked the volunteers to tell me if they were happy, based on their definition. With a summary, the answers for the second question seem meaningless. So, I will make a list of the definitions, followed by the reply on whether people are happy or not.

  • a simple life surrounded by positive people, YES

  • deep breathing, NO

  • do whatever we want, whenever we want without hurting anyone, YES

  • Being able to be yourself and enjoy your life, do things with people who love you for who you are and not feel lonely or scared or depressed, NO

  • feeling alive, NO

  • feeling good, KIND OF

  • eternal life, YES

  • do whatever I want without being judged by society, KIND OF

  • being surrounded by people you love and who love you, are happy to see you, will cheer you up when you feel down, will ignore any petty squabbles and know you’d do the same for them, NO

  • not worrying that I’d let people down, not on an emotional level – failing tests, not getting jobs, etc, YES

  • acceptance and loving friends, NO

  • when time doesn’t have any sense anymore, YES

  • having things that I care about, KIND OF

  • freedom, fullness, YES ANS NO

  • love, NO

  • being able to do the things I love and have a roof over my head and food, good friends and a nice family, NO

  • do things without second guessing, having friends without thinking they hate me, SOMETIMES

  • having everything I need, YES

  • existence, YES

  • fulfillment in most areas of my life, YES

  • to love the way you are and to love how things are going and to feel so good that you want things to stay that way. Feel good with oneself and accept whatever life offers you, YES

  • unconditional love and acceptance without the need to categorize anyone, success in helping others, KIND OF

  • enthusiasm and peacefulness, SOMETIMES

  • being yourself without caring about what people will think of you, NO

  • happiness is a fake feeling, NO

  • sense of wellness, contentedness, feeling of safety and inner self-”reassuredness” (I love people that create words), YES

  • joy and serenity, NO

Now that you have read every answers, here is a summary of the replies concerning people’s feeling on whether they are happy or not. We all have different definitions of happiness and a bit more than half of us think we are happy to a certain extent.

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 What is your definition of true love?

Here, I will not make a list of the answers but a summary instead. On the one hand, there are people that believe in true love and others that think true love does not exist. Among those who don’t believe in true love, some told me that they thought there were different forms of love and that none of them was more true than another, and I agree. I will not create a debate here, I did not ask the question to find a perfect answer but to learn a bit about people’s views on love.

Among the answers of those who seem to believe in true love, most of people think that it happens when you find someone who know you can spend your life with or when you are ready to die for. In most cases, it means a total presence in the other person’s life, implying that you accept that person for who they are and that they accept who you are in return. Trust, respect, comfort and sincerity are important aspects of the relationships described in the answers.

If there was no money, what would you do?

Here comes a crucial question. Indeed, if money did not limit your possibilities, what would your dreams be? I have already developed this question in another article and I am currently working on a new project with a friend on the subject (update to come soon). I will also sum up the replies, as most of the volunteers agree on their views. A part of the people that replied would just (as they say) live their lives. What I understand here is that in both cases (money exists or it doesn’t), those people already feel like they live their lives as they wish. Some others dream of travels, explorations, creation. In other cases, people would share with others and try to create a better place. Among the answers I found funny : lots of sex, create money and be a rich “bastard” and “hide because we’re all going to die.”

What makes you angry?

I love this question because it shows how we all are different and it reminds us to a certain extent that we should not blame people for their reaction because, YES, we all are DIFFERENT! Here the answers are : injustice, disrespect, arguing with people, stress, people, rejection, ignorance, inequality, poverty, fascism, capitalism, “myself”, Hermione Granger (people who think they know everything), narrow-mindedness, intolerance, posh people, French people (a French person said that!), modernity, and letting people down. One person told me that he/she could not be angry.

Do you have secrets haunting you?

I will start here with a chart gathering the answers. As you can see, a majority of us have secrets. We can agree that sometimes, keeping secrets is good for us, but in other cases, people feel hurt about what they hide for whatever reason.

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Among the people that replied ‘yes’, some told me what their secret was. As this is anonymous, I think I can share them. Someone feels that they don’t who they are and that they feel they take advantage of a sort of “fake” love they give to others for personal gain. Someone feels ashamed about certain acts such as cheating on a partner. Another person feels like they have too many secrets, among them are disordered eating, self-harm, anxiety, mental illness in the family, etc. Someone does not care about people. Finally, I received a few answers of gay people that are still in the closet and feel haunted by this secret.

Conclusion

I am really bad at conclusion so I will just say one thing : we are all different (you already knew). Yep, nothing else. If you wish to help me conclude, please, feel free to comment above or send me a private message (malher.mathieu@laposte.net).

I would like to thank everyone that participated in the project. I really appreciate your sincerity and I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. I apologize as always for any grammar or syntax fault in the text.

As for my next project in collaboration with a friend, I’ll keep in touch with you but I am really excited.