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Desperately Seeking Susan Sontag
(This one's for Lena!) Sontag sleeps with Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Marguerite Duras, among others, at the Cimetière de Montparnasse.

Her son had to get permission from the mayor of Paris for her to be buried there. We went looking for her grave -- also no easy task.


On our way to Sontag, we popped by the grave of Philippe Noiret, who just died. Here's his stone yet, but plenty of flowers, including an arrangment with the note, "Philippe, The Theater of The Madeleine Writes You A Love Letter."


We were at the cemetery with our friends Emily and Pierre. Emily is American, living in Paris, and was a New Yorker before. She remarked on a difference between Paris and New York -- that many events in New York are private, and happen behind closed doors. But, in Paris, there's more access for the public.

Here are a few more graves we saw on our way...a family murdered at Auschwitz:


A famous aviatrice:


Simone and Jean-Paul:


And finally, we found it:


A little closer:


Oh, and P.S., for those who are of the mind that the French are not friendly, and merely growl at strangers or ignore them while driving them from the airport, people always talk to me. An old man started walking with me, asking me if I was looking for a plot. I told him I had a few years yet. He told me he'd had three heart attacks, so, he joked, he could be taking up residence there any day now. Best of all, he spoke slowly, as a lot of old people do, so I understood every word.

Photos of aviatrice, Auschwitz family, and Sontag neighbors by Amy Alkon. The rest are by Gregg Sutter.

Posted by aalkon at December 1, 2006 2:11 PM

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These are beautiful. Thanks for posting them.

Posted by: Melissa G at December 1, 2006 6:59 AM

Bitch, you were supposed to go there with ME.

Posted by: Lena at December 1, 2006 9:26 AM

Well, frankly, without Pierre, we never would've found it! (Truth be told, we actually went for Noiret [Emily's original suggestion], but I said I had to get a picture of Sontag for you.) Consider it an homage -- and a reason to come back with me!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 1, 2006 9:30 AM

Seeing these stones, having looked up the history of Maryse Bastie - and having a mother who was a member of The Ninety-Nines - I have to ask: do you have grander plans for the future?

Posted by: Radwaste at December 1, 2006 9:53 AM

Wow...that's amazing about your mother. Unfortunately, I get hypoxia on airplane flights (when seated in coach where the air quality is sometimes pretty bad) so, as far as flight plans go...only in my dreams.

As far as my writing goes, I'd like to get in many more papers (including the LA Times, where I've been banned from the features sections for quite some time), do a radio show, and get my book out.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 1, 2006 10:03 AM

What are YOUR plans, Radwaste?

Posted by: Lena at December 1, 2006 1:30 PM

Fair question, Lena!

In the near term, I'm hoping to get the training program changed in my area of Savannah River Site, so that we may actually a) earn our salary, and b) be able to operate without having to wait for the copy machine to warm up. It's a complex place - an industrial radioactive waste processing plant - and if I can bring that off, I'll be happy for years. Right now I have procedures to fix, most of them with regulatory impact.

In a way, I have the same job now as Amy: I get to be right, through research, while I try to fix the ways people misbehave.

Cheers for Amy: running your own business is tougher than working in a system, which is what I do. Mom was tough, and Maryse Bastie reminded me of her, the reason I refuse to believe there is something women can't do - even as there are gender differences which mean aptitude differences, too. That's why I asked!

Posted by: Radwaste at December 1, 2006 8:28 PM

I like Beryl Markham's memoirs a lot. There's a page or two in "West with The Night" that I sometimes read for inspiration. The basic message is: The weather ain't great, but it's probably as good as you can expect. So you might as well fly.

Posted by: Lena at December 1, 2006 11:33 PM

Thanks, Rad, that's really nice of you -- and kudos for what you're trying to do.

It is tough, running your own biz, but your mistakes are all yours and the rewards are all yours, too (although I believe in paying people who work for me well -- and hope to get a book advance soon, and pay my assistant much better!)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at December 2, 2006 3:48 AM

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