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The man of the rue Pascal

In the early 1970s, shortly before rue Pascal opened onto the prospect of the Lycée Rodin, there was an old shop with a wooden front. On the panels, sentences were written, or rather painted, in blue ink. Long poems well aligned, which spoke of life, of death, of all the rottenness that clutters our space, of the baseness of the world, of the pettiness of men, of the incomprehension of right-thinking people for the revolt of the real artists, of the sea caressed by the black sun of Nerval, of the vivisection of lab dogs, of the arrogant bourgeois), of the death of Jim Morrisson, of the witnesses of the apocalypse, old cars with doors that open the other way...

I often passed in front of this bizarre place and I was fascinated by this avalanche of words and odd information. The master of these places was a crazy old man with shaggy white hair and a huge wine stain on his mobile face. He usually wore a burgundy dressing gown and he walked up and down in his store, a book in his hand, wearing a pair of slippers. It looked like he came straight out of Sainte Anne asylum…

One day I ventured into the lair, attracted by a stack of brand new yellow-covered books.

- So, buddy, what do I offer you?

The clear voice came from a dark corner that my eyes had not yet explored.

- Nothing, sir, I was watching.

I was not leading off.

- You looked ? But you should read. Look at a book, what horror!

I tried to swallow.

– I mean… I wanted to know… for the yellow books…

The old man's gaze softened. He grabbed one of the books in question, and passed his hand over it, stroking it a little.

- You know what it is ? he asked me.

- No sir.

“Well, you see, I wrote it.

Oh my! Not only did I have a real writer in front of me, but he spoke to me as if my opinion mattered.

He put the blanket under my nose. It was written, against an allegorical background in the style of "fame crowning glory" in the midst of lascivious cherubim:

"Reflections on life and tragic poems"

I grabbed the book and started leafing through it. It was an agglomeration of maxims, anecdotes and poems, self-published, of which my new friend had just received the first and probably the last delivery.

– It just came out and it’s only me who sells it. he resumed proudly. It's ten francs.

I don't know what got into me, but I took the money out of my pocket and gave the ten francs. Then I bravely read the first two pages, then one or two in the middle, and the last. Also, when I came back the following week, the poet-writer was there and as I expected, he asked me:

- How did you find ?

“Well, awfully good, sir.

– Which passage interested you the most?

There, proud of my preparation, I spoke to him about one of the two middle pages.

– I liked it when the dwarf did not dare to go to Egypt. And then also what you say about artists and aerophagia.

- Don't worry about the dwarf. Anyway, I'll kill him in the sequel. As for artists, they should stop drinking Coke.

Thereafter, almost every day, I went to this old anar whose name I have forgotten. He would make me coffee, and we would eat rock-hard cakes while talking about Leibniz, Husserl, and nickel-plated feet.

Once, the rain had fallen so hard that a few poems on the storefront had started to drip like an old badly extinguished rimmel.

Then the door remained closed.

I don't know where my friend the writer is. Maybe he's trying to sell a few books to Saint Pierre!

© Fabrice Roy 2007


Author and lecturer in art history, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...

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