YOU GUYS! Last weekend actually wasn’t my last weekend in Paris; through a turn of events I had the chance to return this weekend, so I can see all the things I still hadn’t seen. If you read my first Literary Pilgrimage post, then you know that I didn’t get to see the Maison de Balzac or Oscar Wilde’s grave at Père Lachaise cemetery. Well guess whaaaat? I can now check them off the list!
Today I went to the Maison de Balzac. The museum is very small but well done.
When Balzac lived in this little house, Passy, the quarter, was still a separate village. The city of Paris, and the Eiffel Tower, have since grown up around the house.
The highlight of the house is his study, which is the only room as it was when he lived there. He wrote for almost 16 hours every day in this room, the room where he wrote much of the Comédie Humaine, including Le Père Goriot.
If there is anything young writers can learn from Balzac, it’s the importance of editing! He rewrote every page he wrote around 20 times. His manuscripts showed how seriously he took the task of editing.
The museum carried other personal items such as his famous cane. It was so flamboyant for the time, Paris newspapers talked about for 6 months after debuted it!
Another important stop on my literary pilgrimage was to visit Père Lachaise cemetery – more specifically, Oscar Wilde’s tomb. The cemetery is huge and it took a lot of wandering and an almost useless official map to find his tomb.
As soon as we turned down the alley that his tomb is on, I knew it was the right one – there is a protective barricade surrounding it and flowers people have left on the street. His grave is clearly the most popular!
The tradition used to be that people would put on lipstick and kiss his grave, however the tombstone was restored in 2011 and a glass barrier has been erected to prevent people from kissing the tombstone directly.
The glass barrier covered in dirty lip smudges, the protective railing, and the awkwardly out-of-place sphinx on an unimaginative giant stone rectangle create an ironically hideous monument to a man dedicated to beauty. I sincerely hope he would appreciate the irony.
After paying respects to Oscar, we visited some other famous final resting places.
Balzac is also buried in Père Lachaise, however as we started out to see his grave, it started to rain. Pretty hard.
“Well, after all, his spirit is alive in the city.” – Vlad
“Yes, he lives on in his words.” – Me
One becomes quite creative and eloquent when making excuses.
We ended up not seeing Balzac’s grave, but that’s ok, since I saw his house and his city. With this extra weekend, I was able to complete my literary pilgrimage in Paris!