This morning I was re-reading Albertine disparue, by one of my chers maîtres, M. Proust.

One of those gems of perspicacity (either forgotten or unremarked in previous readings) which stand forth from the great forest of his text struck me with its elegant force and I was compelled to attempt the translation of it.

Certainly, in that Balbec which I had desired to see for so long, I had not found the "Persian" church of which I had dreamed, nor the unending fogs. Even the good old 1:35 train itself had not corresponded to the one I had pictured to myself. But, in exchange for that which the imagination hopes to find and which we futilely give ourselves such trouble in our attempts to discover, life gives us something that we were very far indeed from imagining. - Marcel Proust

After watching the documentary about the fire at Notre-Dame on 4 Corners last night, the Monsieur’s observation reminded me of the places I knew well on the Île de la Cité and the Rive Gauche.

I never liked Notre-Dame when I lived in Paris: Kilomètre Zéro would always strike me as the epicentre of the touristic ‘cirque parisien’, the place we go to Paris ‘hoping to find’ and ‘giving ourselves such trouble in our attempts to discover’.

Yet when I saw the footage taken from behind the cathedral with the great plume of black smoke rising from the burning spire, I remembered a sketch I had dashed off one dark, overcast afternoon on the pont de la Tournelle.

Notre-Dame as seen from the pont de la Tournelle, by Dean Kyte
Notre-Dame as seen from the pont de la Tournelle, by Dean Kyte.

It was hardly a premonition of future events.  Yet life had given me ‘une vue de Notre-Dame de Paris’ which I was very far indeed from imagining.