Sunday, June 20

The city of those who are no longer | Blog From the shooter to the city


On February 27, the window of the Hegoa gallery, at 16 rue de Beaune in Paris woke up with the intimacy of one of the illustrious residents of the neighborhood exhibited in the window. Serge Gainsbourg, skinny in his mouth, dries his daughter Kate with a huge white towel. They are sitting on the edge of an antique bathtub. Beside her, Jane Birkin hugs her naked daughter Charlotte, who leans lovingly on her mother’s body, as if she were a towel herself. There are more black and white snapshots. They were all taken by Andrew Birkin, Jane’s brother. They cost 4,000 euros. They are worth a life. That of a family that lasted happily for just over two decades, those portrayed in the exhibition Gainsbourg Still 30 years old. The singer is still 30 years old.

That is why his house, at number 5 Verneuil street, is the only patch of chaos in the peaceful and artistic neighborhood where the galleries and antique dealers of the Seventh arrondissement are clustered. There is not a day that someone does not take a photo in front of the door that separates the lush garden of the family from the tranquility of the street. In front of the hundreds of portraits and messages that the followers leave for the smoker, and drinker, most scandalous of the French song. The sexiest ugly man in the world has been gone for 30 years. It seems, however, that he has never left.

Gainsbourg house in Paris.
Gainsbourg house in Paris.

“To exist is to fall apart. I scratch myself and lose a handful of cells, drink a little alcohol, and shed some percentage of my liver. Losing oneself is something for which we are in one way or another prepared, but we are not abandoned; that the people we consider ours do not disappear, because then the process of putrefaction becomes intolerable ”. This is how Guadalupe Nettel describes the loss in her first novel, The host. Nettel lived in Paris. She came because she felt trapped by a thesis and jumping with little money to some streets that she never tired of walking was a liberating effort. Then he published that first hard, cryptic and painful novel. And later I place the protagonist of another book, with which she won the Herralde Prize, walking through those streets, going up the stairs to the attics, listening behind the paper walls. Strolling through Montparnase. Looking for? Among the tombs of Pierre Lachaise. Sometimes I think it was the wrong place.

I always think about it when I pass number 5bis Rue Verneuil. It was there that Gainsbourg dried his daughters without removing the cigarette from his mouth. There he hugged his bitch Nina, as diva or more than he, and there he was left abandoned, when the beautiful Jane Birkin left desperate. They are gone, but the house fires them, or remembers them daily.

Gainsbourg and Birkin lived in front of a much simpler estate whose door had been opened, for years, by another essential musician: Robert Shumann. Not far away, in the same district of the Rive Gauche, and a street further up, on the Rue de Lille, it was Lacan and Max Ernst who settled near the Seine. At 7emme, only Sergei Gainsbourg and Delacroix had a garden. The one of the author of Freedom guiding the people It is one of the great secrets of Paris, a friendly refuge in the shade of a large fir tree, which the painter watched from his studio at 6 Rue de Furstemberg.

Marguerite Duras.
Marguerite Duras. Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images

He also lived in the seventh García Márquez at 9 Rue Montalembert -Who was also a writer. Next to the building that the Colombian lived in, they dedicated a square to him that is little more than a fork. That square is next to the cul-de-sac dedicated to Gaston Gallimard. And, of course, it is not a street either, it is a piece of the Rue de Beaune itself where – we have already told it – Gainsbourg commands, although it is no longer there. Although the exhibition was scheduled until May 15, he is still there, exhibiting his love and intimacy. Very close to your home. He is the only one with flowers, signatures and messages.

Nor Matisse, facing the Seine looking at Nôtre Dame. Nor Stendhal, whose house on Rue Danielle Casanova not far from the Louvre is now occupied by a hotel named after him. Not even Marguerite Duras, who lived for 52 years on 5 de Saint-Benoît, have flowers, messages or graffiti next to her marble plaque. Gainsbourg doesn’t need a badge. But Edith Wharton’s must be found two streets down. Crossing the Boulevard de Saint Germain and approaching Les Invalides and the Museum where, before being his mausoleum, Rodin lived. There are more absences present: Louise Bourgeos at 174 Saint Germain. Sonia Rykiel -who also has a mini square- at 60 Saints-Péres, where she had her workshop. Sainte Beuve lived, and died, at 11 Rue de Montparnasse, already in the next quarter. There, is where Sarah Bernhardt was born, Glory of Our Theater, in el cinco of the Rue de l’Ecole de Médecine that hoy occupies the Sorbonne Nouvelle.

They are not there and it seems that they have returned. The absence was never more present than in the last year.


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