Previous post in this series: Parisian Dérive: Part II (Number 27)
On Rue de Fleurus, at the corner with Boulevard Raspail, I was reluctant to venture farther for the moment. I backtracked toward Luxembourg Gardens, but at Rue d’Assas I bore left. Walking past closed cafes, clinics, and medical supply shops. I stopped at the corner with Rue de Vaugirard and debated which way to go. I thought I’d go along Rue de Vaugirard, which follows the line of an ancient Roman Road.
This street is largely nondescript. A variety of shops, real estate agents, banks, tabacs, and such line the street. However, there is a 17th century church ad seminary, Église Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes, which was built by Marie de’Medici to house Discalced Carmelites; a bit further down, where Rue Vaugird meets Rue Guynemer, you’ll find an elegant building with enormous wooden doors; F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived here during one of their visits to Paris. At Place de l’Odéon, see the Neoclassical building that houses Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe — the oldest continuous theater in Europe. First built in the 18th century, what we see today was built in the 19th (two earlier structures were destroyed by fire). Numerous significant works debuted here–including The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais, which opened in 1784. It was wildly successful and politically notorious as it criticized the aristocracy. A precursor to the Revolution.
Seeing L’Odeon sent me searching for Rue de l’Odeon, a street that, from 1922-1941, featured Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company, a bookstore and lending library frequented by numerous literary and artistic luminaries.
Beach published Ulysses here; it’s arguably the most significant western literary work of the 20th century. Sadly, only a small, pale (almost invisible) marker halfway up the building notes that historic publication. I am ashamed to say that I did not see the plaque when I stood in front of it. I only saw it later when looking through my photos.
Next door, a much larger marker next door alerts us that Tom Paine, author of Common Sense, who’d been involved in the American and French Revolutions, lived here 1797-1802 (when he left, he made off with his landlord’s wife).
I carried on down the street, went left at Carrefour de l’Odéon and left again onto Rue de Condé. A few blocks later, I turned right on Rue Saint-Sulpice, walking along until the church’s fountain came into view.