I’m getting a little worried about myself – I’m becoming a regular visitor to cemeteries. Only a few weeks ago I was at Bunhill Fields in London and last week I was exploring Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. But a cemetery in a hectic, large city can be a green oasis of peace and quiet’’; a pleasant spot to spend some time. And an opportunity to pay homage to some heroes.
My main reason for wanting to visit the Montparnasse cemetery was to do just that – Simone de Beauvoir and John-Paul Sartre are buried there in the same grave – inseparable in death as during their adult lives – just inside the main entrance on the Boulevard Edgar Quintet. Turn right on entering and it’s there, by the wall a few metres away.
The gravestone was covered with flowers and other tributes, including a large number of used Metro tickets – apparently because Sartre supported a group of French Maoists who stole and distributed tickets following a fare increase.
Another Socialist (well, Anarchist really) buried in the cemetery is Pierre-Joseph Proudhon.
An important thinker he is probably best known for his state that “property is theft” This is rather an oversimplification of his ideas however. The statement is taken out of context. The passage where the statement occurs is from the Théorie de la propriété (Theory of Property), which was published posthumously. In this work he declared in turn that
“property is theft”, “property is impossible”, “property is despotism”, and “property is freedom”
In saying that “property is theft“, he was referring to how landlords and capitalists the profits were the stolen property of workers.
Other “residents” include
The poet, author of Fleurs du Mal, Charles Baudelaire
The singer and poet Serge Gainsborough
(More Metro tickets – this time because he wrote a song about a worker on the system)
The American actress Jean Seberg, who starred in Godard’s Bout de Souffle (a favourite film of mine) and Joan of Arc in Otto Preminger’s Saint Joan.
The American writer Susan Sontag
and others including Guy de Maupassant, Samuel Beckett, Constantin Brancusi, Chaim Soutine, Man Ray, and Alfred Dreyfus.
It’s still very much an active cemetery with about 1,000 burials every year. There was a funeral taking place while we were there.