Letter from . . . January 2021
Drink a rum
On visits to the train stations and cemeteries of Paris.
Arriving in Paris at the Gare de Lyon is a very different experience from arriving at the Gare du Nord, the difference being (as differences tend to be) a sociologically instructive one.
In the Gare de Lyon, one sees the France of Robert Doisneau, the romantic photographer, in the Gare du Nord more that of Céline, the poet of degradation. Put another way, the Gare de Lyon and the Gare du Nord are those, respectively, of what the great French historical demographer Emmanuel Todd calls la France protégée and la France exposée, the France protected and the France exposed. The inhabitants of these two countries are, on the one hand, the educated with well-paying jobs, employed in the dynamic economy, enjoying all kinds of social protections including property-owning parents, and on the other the precariat, with ill-paying...
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