I was very pleased one day when the wife of the local doctor, he and she are fond of digging a bit and here when you dig a bit, beside making things grow, there is Roman, and Gallo-Roman, and even earlier things to be found. Well one day we were out in the car and she said one day when the work men were first cutting this road through there on that ledge were the ancestors, lots of their bones. It is always there life and death death and life and the earth and it is never anything to be remembered or even talked about, and that is the reason the French do not make much lyrical poetry. They do not get away from the earth enough to look at it, they paint it, but they do not poetise it.Stein, in her short book Paris France says very little about Paris, and speaks mostly of France in terms of difference, how the French are unlike anyone else, or--more accurately--seemed to be like or unlike Gertrude Stein. Sometimes Stein talks about how much the French are like everyone else, though.
It could be a puzzle why the intellectuals in every country are always wanting a form of government which would inevitably treat them badly, purge them so to speak before anybody else is purged. It has always happened from the French revolution to to-day. It would be a puzzle this if it were not that it is true that the world is round and that space is illimitable unlimited. I suppose it is that that makes the intellectual so anxious for a regimenting government which they could so ill endure.Stein is writing during WW II, which she and her companion Alice spent in the French countryside, away from Paris. Paris France is mostly a book about rural France during the early years of WW II.
Helen and her dog William were out every day and almost every evening and they always saw some one. They knew a boy named Emil who was a big boy with very large eyes and a dog named Ellen. Ellen the dog had been born in the country against which they were fighting. Emil looked at his dog and wondered if he could love him. The dog loved Emil but could Emil love him.Paris France is not much like Hemingway's A Movable Feast. Stein's France is not a movable feast, it is an art exhibit with a distracted but chatty curator. It is not filling, but it does make one hungry.
As Helen and her dog William came along Emil's dog Ellen was sniffing along the side of the road in the sand and finally went sniffing up the bank. Helen's dog William went sniffing too. Perhaps there was game there, very likely because in war time men did not go shooting nobody hunted any thing only dogs and cats hunted in war-time, Emil the boy with large eyes sighed about this. He said dogs hunt in war-time but they do not get much, anybody could see two or three dogs going together to hunt and waiting to see if anybody saw them because in peace-time of course they could not go hunting. Then Emil said but cats in peace-time or in war-time, they sit and watch and prey. It was getting darker and beginning to rain and Helen went one way and Emil went another way and each one of their dogs went with the one who owned him.
A French cat, outside Giverny, September 2015. Photo: Mighty Reader