City of Memory

Thursday, 10 April

My friend Louise D. invited me to a sale of accessories, jewellery in the 5th arrondissement ( It was in a hôtel particulier on the rue Lhomond, just a few doors down from where I used to live. From the balcony I could see ‘ours’: the ground floor apartment in what had been the dining hall of a convent. A pregnant mother walked a child along the paths of the central garden, under the last blossoms on the ornamental cherry trees. Children’s toys littered the sandbox.

What a torrent of memories. This was where two of my children were born, where the three of them played and where once I walked. Even the woman who owned the hôtel where the sale was taking place, I recognized as a mother from the school my children attended.

After thirty plus years, many, many corners of Paris recall intense memories. Where I live now, for example. In my early years I taught some English. One of my students was a journalist at Radio France. Once a week I’d ride my bike over to the Maison de la Radio from the rue Mazarine, where I then lived. I’d take the rue de l’Université. In an attempt to make the light at the boulevard St Germain, I'd always speed up there. But often I failed and as I waited, I’d admire the green door of the building on the corner, wonder who lived behind it. Who'd have guessed that 15 years later me and my recomposed family would be among the residents.

I also stopped at the Arènes de Lutèce, where the first scene of my novel Someone Else (coming out soon) occurs. Walking off a normal Paris street into the remains of a Roman arena still startles.

What startled me even more, however, about being back in the 5ème arrondissement, was how memories from my life and memories from events in my book, which largely takes place there, got all mixed up in my head.

Fact and fiction, fiction and fact.