Tomb of Heloise and Abelard 1814

Calamities of the Heart

  It’s winter and the Père Lachaise Cemetery is awash in grays. The sky, the bare limbs of the trees, the pavers and the stone cladding the tombs coalesce into one monochromatic composition as I climb the hill. I walk along a path made knotty by the roots of trees as they attempt to nudge […]

Death of Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini.

Echoes of History

  Life is a paradoxical affair at the corner of Boulevards Saint-Michel and Saint-Germain. Uber drivers dressed in tailored suits whiz through the intersection in sleek Mercedes just yards away from an assemblage of ragged walls nearly 20 centuries old. Pocked with scraggy arches, they splay toward the streets—unapologetic in their dilapidation.     The […]

I saw the Arc de Triomphe with new eyes

Seeing with New Eyes

  Day two of my Parisian literary adventure follows a foray I wrote about last week. It turned out to be a long excursion because I decided to walk all the way from my hotel, Le Meridien Etoile in the 17th arrondissement near the Périphérique, along the spine of Avenue de la Grande Armée, past the Arc de Triomphe, onto […]

Reception at Malmaison in 1802 François Flameng

Transitory Spaces

  The beginning of one of Napoléon Bonaparte’s earliest letters to Joséphine de Beauharnais simply oozes sensuality: “Seven in the morning. I awaken full of you…the memory of yesterday’s intoxicating evening has left no rest to my senses…Sweet and incomparable Joséphine, I draw from your lips, from your heart, a flame which consumes me…A thousand […]

The Palette of van Gogh in Starry Night

The Palette of Van Gogh

  You can see the passion in Vincent’s stare. Is there a hint of malice or is it a touch of despair? He was certainly a tortured man, though such a talented one. I stood and stared at this self-portrait hanging in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, for quite some time one […]