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bad boy baudelaire buried in montparnasse

Baudelaire came to my attention the other day. Nine months after visiting his tomb in the Montparnasse Cemetery, I started reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. That day I thought of Charles Baudelaire.

I mention Les Misérables because Baudelaire panned Hugo’s novel (in private) when it was published in 1862.

Nine months ago in August 2016 I was living in Paris near the Montparnasse Cemetery. In fact I could step out of the apartment building, turn the corner, and stop and see the walls that separated me from the tombs. I could then, if I wished, become a tatophile.

Cemeteries in Paris are tourist destinations for me. Père Lachaise is the big one. Cimetière du Montparnasse is not far behind in size and fame.

Detail from a portrait of Charles Baudelaire by Gustave Courbet.

Since the cemetery is large with streets separating some sections of it, one must sometimes walk through it, use it as a short cut. The French do it. So do I.

It is lovely inside. Peaceful. Certainly quiet. The walls mask the traffic noise. People are respectful and don’t shout as they would when in a more public place.

When I stay in Paris, I will often return to my favorite places. Paris is rich that way; it offers to the resident and the outsider and certainly to the flâneur many spots that continue to interest. Louvre.  Musée d’Orsay. Eiffel Tower. Notre Dame. The cemeteries.

I visit to pay my respects to my favorite writers and painters, such as Baudelaire, who has served as the model for this flâneur. At the top of this post and to the right is a drawing of him.

Unlike most who are interred in the cemetery, Baudelaire is resting with others. At the end of his life he was poor. He spent his last two years in a semi-paralyzed state. It was only after his death that his poetry began to contribute to his fame and that his rightful place in the French literary canon began to be acknowledge. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

Charles Baudelaire was buried with some members of his family; however unlike any other individual in the cemetery, he is honored with a cénotaphe, a funeral monument that does not contain the body. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

It stands against a wall alone under the shade of trees at the end a dead end street. It is the wall I can see when I leave the apartment building, turn the corner, and look toward the walls of the cemetery that separate me from the tombs.

By the way Victor Hugo is buried in the Panthéon, a singular honor as well.

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