Tag: France

Being a Parisian in 2017

The multicultural character of European cities like Paris and London used to be a given. “Multicultural – insert name of any European capital” would be a fitting title for any travel magazine article concentrating on one of these cities, as well as for a cover story on a fashion magazine where models wear African inspired outfits against a urban background. In the aftermath of the 13th of November 2015 and of the terroristic attacks that hit other European capitals more recently, multiculturalism has started to be considered as more of a complex issue and less of an indicator of a significant concentration of ethnic restaurants in some neighbourhoods of a city. Public opinion is now paying more and more attention to the migrant communities that live in European cities, many members of which are European citizens.

Corner of Le Marais, Paris (Wikimedia Commons)

In this sense, Paris is the multicultural city par excellence, with a tradition of immigration that dates back to the colonial time. All over the world les Parisiens are portrayed as snob and proud of their city and the elegance that comes with it. But beyond this stereotype it’s easy to recognise the true nature of its inhabitants, people that have been used to multiculturalism “way before it was cool” and have lived in neighbourhoods historically inhabited by different nationalities. Probably the most fashionable and definitely one of the most exclusive, the Marais is the historic centre of Jewish Paris, while Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis is the epicentre of multicultural Paris. Not to mention Little India, the vibrant and colourful streets around La Chapelle, and Belleville, whose multiculturalism was made famous by Daniel Pennac’s novels.

Being used to living together within diversity, most Parisians haven’t seen the cause of the terrorist attacks in migrant communities, and, when talking about the facts of November 2015 and how they affected their lives, they most often don’t mention Paris’ multicultural nature as a reason for concern. For our series on cities affected by terrorism, we spoke to Emeline, a 26-year-old French girl who has lived in Paris for the last two years.

Emeline (photo by courtesy of Emeline, all rights reserved)

Hello Emeline. Where were you on the 13th of November 2015? Do you remember what you were doing that night?

Hello. I live in République, which was quite in the middle of the attacks. That night I was at home, taking a power nap before going out. On this occasion I was thankful for my lazy way of life, which kept me away from the streets at that specific time of the evening. As soon as I realised what was happening, I started to worry for my friends and texted my roommates and boyfriend to make sure they were safe. From the windows I could see people running. I also spotted an acquaintance from the window and I joined him at the bar downstairs, a place I could reach through my courtyard without going out in the streets. I would have rather been with someone in that moment and not at home alone.

Have you noticed any change in the city since the attacks? Have everyday habits and human relationships changed?

Not really actually. The only thing is that when they hear a loud noise that sounds like a gunfire or a bomb, people sometimes start running and try to find a safe place, or some just stop walking and look for the gaze of others, they seem to say “Is it ok? – It was weird, wasn’t it? “. But apart from that, I didn’t notice any difference in people’s behaviours, not even toward Muslim communities.

View from Emeline’s window, République, Paris (photo by courtesy of Emeline, all rights reserved)

What kind of changes have occurred in your everyday life? Have you ever thought of moving?

I don’t really like been in a big crowd. I don’t feel secure. I must admit I didn’t like it before because I am not much of a people person, but I feel that now my refusal has another reason. Nevertheless since 2015 I happened to be in crowds, during strikes for example. That’s a French habit, there’s not much you can do to prevent us from doing it!

As a French girl, how do you see Europe? Do you think these attacks are somehow threatening the concept of a united Europe?

In my opinion Europe is a concept based on shared economics, politics, common rules and culture, but I don’t think we individually feel like a part of Europe. I mean, I personally don’t feel like a European citizen, that is not my identity. Speaking of terrorist attacks and the fear they generated, I think this is definitely not helping people feel united and carefree when thinking of borders, but I don’t believe the terrorist concern is the main cause of Europe’s problems.

According to Emeline, life has moved on in Paris. But of course the fear of that night can’t easily be forgotten and the terrorist attacks that followed across Europe haven’t helped Parisians, and Europeans in general, feel safe in their cities. What is giving us hope in these hard times is the fact that Paris, the beautiful, multicultural and welcoming Paris, hasn’t lost its identity and its pride in being one of the most beautiful and diverse cities in the world.

Emeline was interviewed by Francesca Gabbiadini

Cover photo by courtesy of Martina Ravelli, all rights reserved

“Tomorrow I’ll try again!” Ahmed’s story

We are quietly seated around a table and Ahmed decides to tell us his story in detail. He comes from the South of Somalia and his city of origin is a few kilometres away from the borders of Ethiopia and Kenya. His family – father and mother, two sisters and a little brother – are still there, waiting for Ahmed to reach his destination. He is the eldest son, and is sixteen years old. He talks raising his head and large eyes and articulating his sentences in a sharp English. He wears his red hat, the one he reserves for special occasions, the one he wouldn’t wear when sleeping on the station floor, waiting to cross the border.

A soft music, played on a smartphone, is Ahmed’s background as he plunges into his memories. He used to go to school in Kenya, then the border was closed and militarised, so the possibility of having an education was precluded to him. He then attended for around a year an unofficial school – which the best part of his community didn’t approve of (“but one day on the street my friends told me: come to school, the teacher is good, very good!”) – set up by a man who payed the rent for the rooms they used for the classes himself. The classrooms where positioned in different areas of the city so as not to be located, but they guaranteed access to education. This person, who strongly believed in education and its power to take boys away from war, became his teacher: there were two classes to which students could be assigned depending on their level of knowledge (“young” and “old”) and a number of subjects were taught (English, Arabic, maths, chemistry, IT…). From time to time Ahmed helped his teacher, teaching the students of the “younger” classes, even though some of them where older than him.

The terrorist group Al-Shabaab had been threatening the teacher for some time, blaming him for taking boys aways from military training and for teaching unapproved subjects (such as the English language). The teacher decided to inform Ahmed of what was happening, letting him know what the risks were, and the situation went on like that for around a year: threatening phone calls, death threats, increasingly serious intimidations. Ahmed tells us that the biggest difficulty in his town is that terrorists are everywhere but unrecognisable. “They are part of the population. You would be talking to a woman, and she would fall dead before your eyes without you knowing how or by whom she was murdered. There were often stray bullets and improvised hails of stones”.

Al Shabaab hostages freed in Kismayo, Somalia

One day the teacher asked Ahmed to teach to one of the younger classes while he went to teach to another classroom. The evening before terrorists had threatened him again.

Ahmed completed his task, something he had already done a number of times. But this time terrorists broke into the classroom and killed the teacher in front of his students. “I knew I was going to be the next one… I was in their sight, they would have come for me too”. As soon as Ahmed was informed of his teacher’s murder, he organised his departure with the support of friends and relatives, and in three days he collected 3,000 dollars. He fled his community heading towards the border. He managed to bypass a checkpoint and, after avoiding contact with soldiers, he found himself in Kenya. This was in March 2016.

“When I got to Kenya I had to look for a smuggler who would organise a series of passages through African borders and my arrival in Libya. It didn’t take long, I showed him what money I had and he said I would have had to pay at the end of the journey”.

He crossed Uganda as the only passenger on a Toyota pick-up. “At every border crossing we changed driver and increased in number”. They departed from South-Sudan in six, in Sudan more people joined them and they headed towards the Saharan desert.

The journey across the desert lasted eight days: they were twenty-four and they had a proper break only on the fourth day. (“It was very hard. It was unbearably hot and they gave us water only once in a while. From time to time we stopped to sleep on the roadside”).

After five more days of walking – it was May by now – he arrived in Libya, where he was taken to a prison in the suburbs of an unknown city. “They made me and many others go through a corridor… they said You are from Somalia, it’s 6,000 dollars. Do you have the money? I said I only had 3,000 dollars, but they insisted so I replied: ‘I don’t have 6,000 dollars’ and then they said ‘Ask your family for help! We have a trusted man close to them and they could give us the money to save you from prison’. And I said ‘I know my family, they don’t have the money. Do as you please, beat me, kill me, but we don’t have the money’. He relays this dreadful conversation with astonishing naturalness.

Conditions were extremely difficult and there was very little water (“They would give it to us once in the morning and once in the evening, because they said that otherwise we would have used the toiled too often and guards would have wasted time checking on us”).

Ahmed’s journey from Somalia to Libya

He stayed there for four months enduring continuous mistreatments (“They came every day asking us for money and every day I replied I didn’t have it”), until he was released without explanation. Ahmed tells us that there are many refugee camps in Libya, which are controlled by the local armed militias. As soon as he was released from prison, he was held in one of such camps for months. The situation was definitely better if compared to that in prison, but here too guards threatened refugees with guns. “There were loads of people, boys, men but also women who were pregnant or with young children”.

He then waited to be told when to set off to cross the sea. ‘You! Stand up. It’s time to go.’ And, with a shotgun pointed to my back, I stood up and went right off”. It was November.

They reached the jetty in two-hundred, and then increased enormously in numbers, up to between six-hundred and eight-hundred people. Traffickers filled to the limit all three levels of the ship, showing “passengers” where and how to sit. “We were packed liked cookies in a box. Perfectly sat one next to the other, so that we couldn’t move. I sat hugging my knees with my arms. Like cookies in a box.”. He repeats this metaphor a number of times, miming the peculiar puzzle of people, and assures us that they all remained in the same position for more than six hours. Ahmed was in the back of the ship, on the lower level, in one of the most dangerous areas. He tells us about the fear, the whispered prayers and the quiet crying. This situation lasted until a team of Doctors Without Borders came to their rescue, then cries of joy erupted after a long silence: “We are safe! We are safe!”. When the first rescuers came to the level where he was held, Ahmed discovered where they were and what their direction was: “We didn’t know where we were directed, not even what city we were in. In that moment I discovered that the final destination was Italy, and that I was about to arrive to Trapani” [Sicily] ). The journey on the boat of Doctors of The World lasted two and a half days, during which migrants received medical, legal and psychological support, as well as the announcement that upon arrival reception staff would be obliged to take their fingerprints, as per the Dublin Convention.

This is what happened next: after being moved to a reception centre in Trapani, Ahmed’s fingertips and his mugshot were taken. He remained there one night, and the next day he was taken to Chianciano Terme, in the area around Siena (Tuscany). There he discovered he had scabies on his hands, and, after being examined by a doctor, he was given a treatment based on creams.

Once the condition had been treated, he entered a centre, but after a couple of weeks he restarted his journey: after many difficulties he arrived to Ventimiglia (a city in Liguria, on the border between Italy and France). He says he has a friend in France, he doesn’t know exactly where because they are not in touch, but he hopes to find him sooner or later. “For me it’s very important to get to France… have you ever heard about the education system they have for refugees? I was told it’s very good […] My ideal job is that of IT specialist… or programmer… or IT engineer, anything to do with technology!”

The border between Italy and France, Ventimiglia.

Since he arrived in Ventimiglia, Ahmed has tried to cross the border twice: he is underage and it is his right to ask humanitarian protection in France. French policemen don’t seem to agree on this point, and the second time he attempted to enter the country they returned him to Italy with an expulsion order that included false information: “They wrote down a different name from mine, I told them that those were not my personal details but they didn’t want to hear it and they sent me back to Ventimiglia. One of the policemen told me that if he saw me again, if I even tried it again, he would beat me up. Another one whispered to my ear a suggestion on how to make it”. When we meet Ahmed for the first time, he is sleeping at the station. We give him a few blankets and our phone numbers, with the promise to talk again.

The next day we meet on the beach, it’s pretty warm for late December. We talk about his story, about how passioned he is about IT and languages – he speaks seven languages fluently. We write a few lines in French: “Je m’appelle Ahmed. J’ai seize ans et j’ai le droit de demander asile en France” (My name is Ahmed. I am sixteen years old and I have the right to seek asylum in France). Although probably useless, at least now he has this piece of paper to show the next time he is stopped and his desire to cross an imaginary line crushed.

We decide to give him hospitality so that he can recover, we prepare a risotto and laugh, we sing. We relax so that he can face calmly the journey he wants to try the next day. We explain to him that the route to Paris is risky: with the destruction of the Calais Jungle thousands of migrants poured on the streets and repression is strong. That’s the route he wants to try. “The French policeman whispered in my ear: take a bus! And this is what I’ll do. I have a couple of contacts, I can get somebody to pick me up at the station”. We buy bus tickets, as Ahmed only has 20 Euros left.

At the moment of departure he looks radiant with his hat on, he leaves at home everything that could weight him down during the journey and sets off (“You know, when you meet people like you… You see, you don’t want to go. You are the only ones who understand my situation, thank you”). We wait anxiously for him to get in touch. He calls us in the evening, after many hours, but not with good news. He didn’t make it this time either: in Niece, on the highway, there was a checkpoint and he was immediately discovered. He showed his paper with the French writing to the policemen but they didn’t even acknowledge him and they sent him back to Ventimiglia. When he calls us he is again at the station, and, giving him indications over the phone, we manage to direct him to a more welcoming place: he won’t spend this night sleeping rough either, but he is impatient and states firmly:

“I’ll try again tomorrow!”

Translated from Italian to English by Sara Gvero

Paris a year on

This Sunday will mark one year from the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people and injured more than 350 in Paris in November 2015. Since then further attacks targeted Brussels, Nice and other localities in and outside Europe, forcing us to confront ourselves with the idea that violence can break into our everyday lives without warning. With the Bataclan, the music venue that was one of its main targets, reopening this Saturday with a Sting concert, Paris is getting ready to face the difficult anniversary of the onslaught. Here, three of its inhabitants tell us what living in the City of Light feels like a year on.

I would like to sit with them and explain to them that life is beautiful”

Fawzy, 28, studied in Paris where he lived until September 2016

Compared to the divided reaction to the Charlie Hebdo carnage, everyone agreed that the Paris attacks were unfair and that it’s just a horror to kill innocent people. For a couple of days after the events we felt a sense of unity within the country as well as with other countries coming forward to show support. But soon everything changed: some people thought they didn’t need to question who carried out the attacks, for what reason and what we could do about what happened; the only important thing became knowing that it had been Muslims, a stance that was encouraged by the media. The number of documentaries about Islam, terrorism and so on that were released over the last year is incredible: for the media they are all the same subject, and this has a very negative impact. People believe in different religions and it’s wrong to stigmatise such a massive community and try to disrupt the feeling of union among French citizens just for political gain.

Photo by Misign / Pixabay
Photo by Misign / Pixabay

After the attacks the situation turned tense everywhere in Paris: I often witnessed people arguing in the street or the tube and if one of them was of Arab origins, you would always hear the phrase “You are a terrorist” used against them. One thing changed for sure: now for many people Muslim means terrorist, there is no more questioning whether one is radical or not.

When Syrian refugees came to France, some people started questioning what happened on the night of the attacks and suggested that politics may have a good share of the responsibility for it. When thinking about the attacks I think about the book “The Attack” by Abdellah Taia and the movie “God Horses” by Nabil Ayouch: I don’t have the energy to understand the psychology of terrorists as they did in these works, but I would like to sit with them and explain to them that life is beautiful and that the world is amazing… Now in Paris we have security officers everywhere to give people a sense of safety, but I don’t think we are safe, as the attacks in Nice demonstrated… and everyone is confused. As for me, I don’t care about politics or religion: I just hope that one day everyone will be able to live in a peaceful world and be happy.

War knocks at your door and you can be killed”

Barbara, 34 years old, lives in the suburbs of Paris and works in a school

The attacks of November 13 dropped on me like an ice floe that made me shake for hours that night. I lived next door to the first bar that was assaulted – Le Carillon. At the very moment of the assault I was at home ready to go out. That night I struggled to keep my mind under control, I was afraid to go completely mad when I brutally realised that the shootings were the direct and historical result of a global phenomenon: war knocks at your door and you can be killed. I read compulsively in the aftermath of the attacks to understand what was happening on a broader geopolitical level. I had to deal with dark feelings and thoughts that were only amplified by the “state of emergency” declared by the government: I am still shocked to live in a country where the state of exception has been declared, where the suspension of “democratic” life has been normalised, where we witness a dramatic increase of islamophobia, a repressive political agenda, and the growing consent to far-right politics. Some words by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben got stuck in my mind, you can read them here: he basically argues that the state of emergency and exception is the most fertile ground for totalitarian regimes.

Photo by Skeeze / Pixabay
Photo by Skeeze / Pixabay

People keep asking me what it’s like to live in France”

Anonymous, in their twenties, lives and works in Paris

On my way back home from work in the evenings, I sometimes get off at Place Albert Kahn, where the black Clio rented by Salah Abdeslam was found by the French police a year ago. The former petty criminal turned full-blown extremist had in fact mysteriously abandoned the mission he so carefully planned with the rest of the terrorist commando that struck Paris on November 13, 2015.

A year on, the commute in Paris is more often than not punctuated by suspicious packages, more and more rapidly dealt with by the transport police: as passengers, we all know that an absent-minded traveller must have forgotten their suitcase on their way home. Living in Paris feels bizarre – when I travel abroad for work, people keep asking me what it’s like to live in France: only after noticing the apprehensive looks on their faces I understand what they are referring to. I wonder how long after 9/11 New Yorkers stopped being asked what it was like to live in their city.

I feel proud of my country, and I tend to be overprotective of it when I am somewhere else. Yet the fear unclenched by the Paris attacks is very palpable; it translates into a sense of suspicion that lingers in the capital a year after this and after other attacks that struck close to Paris – those in Brussels and Nice in particular. Beefed up security, bag searches, ID checks, military patrols and false terror alarms are still very much part of the daily lives of the French.

For someone battling anxiety, a terrorist attack is virtually the worst that can happen. Mindfulness, positive thinking and management techniques appear as nothing more than temporary palliatives when the very real threat of gunfire and mass homicide is a few blocks away from the apartment where you choose to spend the evening instead of going out for a glass of wine. Even as someone who constantly looks over their shoulder, a year later this doesn’t feel like just a symptom of my own anxious mind, but something that seems to be more common than it ever was among other people too. The motto “Même pas peur” (“not even afraid”) does not apply to me; I love Paris — but I don’t love the jittery feeling I get at the slightest sign of disorder in the métro, when I go to the theatre, or to a gig. A year on, the terrorists have still ruined it for me.

Cover photo by Unsplash / Pixabay 

Paris est magique!

Ben prima che l’“effetto farfalla” diventasse un cliché, mia figlia cantava con la sua voce stridula questa filastrocca dall’origine oscura:

Il gatto rovescia la tazza,

la tazza rovescia il tavolo,

il tavolo rovescia la stanza,

la stanza rovescia la scala,

la casa rovescia la strada,

la strada, la strada rovescia Parigi,

Parigi! Parigi! Parigi è rovesciata! 

I nostri padri vivevano a Parigi con il pericoloso gatto della filastrocca seduto davanti alla loro tazza, sul tavolo, nella stanza in cima alla scala che poteva rovesciare la strada. Conoscevano la fragilità della loro posizione, la rapidità con cui la strada poteva rovesciare i regimi: prestavano grande attenzione ai bruschi rivolgimenti di scala.

foto 2 (2)
Paris: Ville Invisible, Bruno Latour

La scala a Parigi si è rovesciata e da quel 31 marzo non si è più tornati indietro. Il tempo è stato sovvertito e di aprile e maggio non si è sentita la mancanza, ci raccontano gli amici dalla capitale francese. Il gatto ha rovesciato la tazza prendendosi le strade e le piazze. Di nuovo, un’altra fiammata di conflitto e rivendicazioni si accende nel cuore dell’Europa, proprio nella città dove la rivoluzione l’hanno inventata.

Da mesi l’opposizione alla Loi travail, riforma del lavoro presentata dal ministro El Khomri, assume forme diverse e ne chiede il ritiro. Sin dagli inizi di marzo gli studenti si son dimostrati determinati a gridare che il loro futuro non era in vendita, accendendo una miccia che ancora brucia. È stato un attimo e lavoratori, precari, disoccupati, migranti si sono trovati in strada insieme agli studenti, nella medesima lotta per una vita dignitosa. Manifestazioni non autorizzate, blocchi stradali e delle merci, flashmob, sanzionamenti, riot come non si vedevano da un po’, occupazioni, assemblee oceaniche, concerti, street art sono solo alcune delle situazioni che hanno preso vita in questo lungo marzo.

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La Nuit Debout ha saputo contenere e far scorrere la rabbia di una città e di un paese che ha contato più di sessanta piazze in piedi. Place de la République come motore propulsore di idee e azioni per rigettare tutti insieme la precarietà che la Loi travail porta con sé. Le piazze si sono subito ingrossate e hanno iniziato a far paura, tanto che le violenze della polizia, protetta dallo état d’urgence, non si sono fatte attendere. Il governo, invece di cercare un dialogo con la piazza, ha continuato a tirare dritto per la sua strada ricorrendo alla legge speciale 49.3 (con la quale può approvare la riforma senza passare per il voto del parlamento). Negli ultimi giorni il maggiore sindacato confederale francese, la CGT, ha annunciato lo sciopero di tutte le raffinerie di greggio del paese e altri settori stanno prendendo esempio, bloccando centrali nucleari, porti, raccolta dei rifiuti, metro, autobus e aerei.  La battaglia è ancora viva e incerta nei suoi esiti.

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Place de la République è lo spazio fisico dove la Nuit Debout ha trovato casa. Luogo simbolo della Francia ferita dagli attentati, ora è spazio comune restituito alla città. Lo sconforto che si trasforma in rabbia, una generazione in lutto che si mette a lottare. E non solo questo.

Uno spazio che si scopre seduti sul lastricato grigio scuro che ricopre l’intera piazza. Dalla polvere e dalle impronte che rimangono sulle mani e sui vestiti.

Uno spazio che si conosce dalle numerose commissioni che ogni giorno si moltiplicano e danno vita alle discussioni sulle ore di lavoro, sui diritti dei migranti, sul reddito di cittadinanza, sul riscaldamento globale e tanto altro. Si discute, ci si confronta, si mettono in comune le idee. Sembra ci siano settantadue commissioni che riportano i contenuti nell’assemblea generale che si tiene ogni pomeriggio alle sei.

Uno spazio che si capisce camminando e cogliendone le parti che la compongono. C’è la logistique che si occupa dell’allestimento, una mensa, un media center con una radio e una tv streaming, una biblioteca, un punto di assistenza giuridica, un’infermeria e numerosi banchetti informativi.

Cogliere l’insieme della piazza con un solo sguardo è impossibile, provare a darne un riassunto o una sintesi anche. È anche nella sua diversità e nelle sue contraddizioni che si esprime la sua potenzialità. Pian piano si capisce che è un agglomerarsi di azioni e situazioni che si sommano, si sovrappongono, si incastrano fino a dare l’idea di un insieme.

È  prima di tutto il desiderio di partecipazione di decine di migliaia di persone che l’hanno attraversata e la fanno vivere giorno dopo giorno, battaglia dopo battaglia. È  una palestra di politicizzazione per militanti e per chi si trova lì per la prima volta. È  la metafora vivente di quel processo di soggettivazione che Foucault ci ha spiegato bene nei sui corsi al College de France.

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La posta in palio è il ritiro della Loi travail, ma non solo. La richiesta che la piazza esprime chiaramente è il bisogno di una forma nuova di democrazia. Una democrazia che sia ora, radicale e partecipativa. È nello stesso tempo una lotta contro un capitalismo che esclude, privatizzando i rapporti sociali quanto gli spazi collettivi. È la lotta contro un processo di precarizzazione che si fa norma nel lavoro, a scuola come negli affetti. È una lotta transnazionale che deve essere perpetrata sempre più, in un’ottica europea. È  il grido di quelli che non sono rappresentati. A Place de la Nation nasce la voglia di costruire novità sociali, sperimentando forme nuove e rivoluzionarie di stare insieme

Viaggio nel paese dei morti: Père Lachaise

C’è una piccola città all’interno di Parigi. Posta su una collinetta nel XX arrondissement, nella parte est della metropoli, è cinta da antiche mura, con numerose porte che affacciano sui diversi boulevard che la circondano; è immersa nel verde, la folta vegetazione e gli alti alberi sempreverdi invadono lo spazio. E’ ricca di monumenti storici e di pregio artistico. Dall’ingresso principale delle mura, percorrendo Avenue Principale, si arriva alla piccola chapelle, mentre proseguendo per Avenue Casimir-Perier si giunge fino a una delle piazze centrali, detta le rond point, da cui si dipanano un’infinità di vie e viuzze che portano ad esplorare questo caratteristico paesino. Nonostante l’altissima densità demografica, si può dire che la popolazione è tranquilla: vi abitano un’infinità di personaggi illustri e famosi, in numero molto maggiore in confronto a Hollywood o Beverly Hills in California. L’unico dettaglio è che tutti gli abitanti sono in realtà defunti.

Stiamo parlando infatti del cimitero di Père Lachaise, il principale cimitero civile di Parigi, il più grande di Francia, uno dei più famosi al mondo.

Con i suoi 44 ettari di terreno è notevolmente più grande del cimitero monumentale di Milano (25 ettari) e del cimitero monumentale di Staglieno a Genova (33 ettari). Per rendere meglio l’idea della vastità del luogo, prendete la Città del Vaticano e posizionatela nel centro di Parigi: quella è l’estensione del Père Lachaise.

Il perimetro del Père Lachaise.
Il perimetro del Père Lachaise.
Il perimetro del Père Lachaise sul centro di Milano (il Duomo riconoscibile in basso).
Il perimetro del Père Lachaise sul centro di Milano (il Duomo riconoscibile in basso).

Per quanto in generale possa sembrare macabro farsi una passeggiata al cimitero, il Père Lachaise conta ogni anno almeno 3 milioni e mezzo di visitatori. Più che le caratteristiche artistiche del luogo (comunque notevoli) sono i suoi “abitanti” ad attirare i turisti: qui Apollinaire è vicino di casa di Honoré de Balzac, il pittore Camille Pissarro è dirimpettaio della coppia Abelardo ed Eloisa, proprio come il tranquillo monsieur personne abita di fronte ad Oscar Wilde. E poi c’è la star, quello che gli appassionati di rock da tutto il mondo vanno a trovare in pellegrinaggio in occasione dell’anniversario di morte: Jim Morrison, qui vicino di casa del collega Georges Bizet. Trovarlo non è semplice; è nascosto in mezzo ad altri, nella parte nord del cimitero.


Un po’ di coordinate storiche: in seguito all’editto napoleonico di Saint-Cloud, secondo cui, tra le altre cose, i cimiteri dovevano trovarsi all’esterno delle mura cittadine (qualche reminescenza di Foscolo?), il cimitero venne edificato sulla proprietà del gesuita Lachaise, e venne ufficialmente inaugurato nel 1804. La prima abitante di questo immenso terreno fu una bambina di cinque anni; ci vollero molte traslazioni di personaggi illustri per convincere i ricchi parigini a scegliere il Père Lachaise come propria dimora perpetua.

Oggi, invece, la lista d’attesa per assicurarsi un posticino per l’eternità (o almeno trent’anni) accanto al pittore Caillebot, a Moliére, a Modigliani, a Chopin o a Rossini è davvero molto lunga.

Se siete interessati, affrettatevi!


APErasmus – PEQUOD meets AEGEE Bergamo

Do you know AEGEE? Probably, those of you who have been Erasmus students know it pretty well, as in the 1980s AEGEE promoted the placement of the Erasmus project – so THANK YOU GUYS! Since then, AEGEE, whose name is related to the Aegean Sea, the birthplace of democracy – how cool is that?! – has been promoting European events creating a huge network of young people all over Europe and beyond.

As you can imagine, AEGEE Bergamo is one of the local branches of AEGEE. Born in the nineties, for all these years it has helped young people cheap-travelling all over Europe, learning foreign languages, making international friends, taking part to international events and parties and becoming real European citizens.

Last night Pequod met the incredibile staff of AEGEE Bergamo at the first APErasmus of the year. What is that? Well, take two of the smartest inventions ever (aperitivo and Erasmus), and put them together: what you get is APErasmus, an event where you can have some appetizers, have a drink and meet new people. The coolest thing is that every week the party is dedicated to a different countrylast night was German night – this means that the food, the cocktails and the decorations are related to that country, so that you get to know it better by having loads of fun!

German appetizers from last night

We collected some comments of the people there, both Erasmus students and Italians.

Claire and Juliette from France seem to be having fun. They are in Italy to learn Italian and for them Erasmus is “party” and “fun”.
Alice and Anna are Chinese and study in Italy. Alice told us that she wanted to go to America in the first place, but it was too expensive. However, she says Italy is beautiful, so she doesn’t seem too disappointed. Anna is more enthusiastic – for her “Italy is the most beautiful country” – she laughs – and she’s passionate about Italian culture and films.
We spot two Italian boys by the wall, observing the situation. We imagine they’re here because they like foreign girls. Actually, they think Italian girls are usually more attractive, but still, they enjoy speaking English.
As everyone looks happy and has a glass in his hands, we go to the bar, also known as the place where the magic happens, and steal a minute from the busy bartender. He says Erasmus events are fun, and according to his esperience, Erasmus students all share bad taste in drinking!

While inside the atmosphere is burning, thanks to the deejays and the barmen, outside it’s snowing a lot, but people don’t mind it at all and stand in the street. Everybody’s busy chatting – English, Italian, German, Spanish and French languages are the soundtrack of this cold white night.

While Pequod is freezing, Conrad seems comfortable even without a coat. He’s from Sheffield (UK) and speaks some Italian because he was studying it in England. He’s been in Italy for a couple of weeks, though he already thinks a lot of good things about Erasmus – good trips (he’s been in Venice and somewhere in the mountains), helpful and very nice people.

The streets are completely white and Pequod needs to get home. But don’t worry: every week we’ll be at APErasmus to meet new people from all over Europe. Read our International interview each Tuesday!


For further information about AEGEE Europe, AEGEE Bergamo and APErasmus, visit the following pages:




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A Hungarian in Southern France

Name and Surname: Veronika Viranyi

Age: 25

Country: Hungary

Nationality: Hungarian

City: Berettyoujfalu


Which is the form of government ruling in your country?

Republic (they say…)

Do you believe corruption exists in your country? How much do you think it influences political life and your private life?

Absolutely. That’s the only thing that actually exists under the name of politics. My private life is not bothered by it, but my family feels the disadvantages of this incorrect attitude.


   Which is your national language? Do dialects exist in your country? If they do, are they used/known by young people?

Hungarian. Dialects do exist, but there are not many variations. Usually their use depend on where people come from, especially from the country or the villages. But when someone moves to the capital or to other big cities gives it up most of the time. I notice it myself, when I go home to my family, after a couple of days I switch back to my dialect, but there are not too many noticeable differences.

1421665329000-1Traditional Hungarian clothes in the countryside

Who do you believe to be the cultural icon of your country?

If I can name only one is Liszt Ferenc, but I have to name more like Kodaly Zoltan Bartok Bela, Jozsef Attila, Ady Endre, Radnoti Miklos, Marai Sandor  (but there are more internationally unknown composers, and poets who would be worth to mention).


Do you consider yourself European?

I’m from Europe, so I am European. I didn’t have the possibility to compare myself to other cultures yet.

Are you able to name a person that you consider symbolic for European culture?

I think that all the most important artists, all those personalities that we consider to be icons of the world of art, are representative of Europe, as you can perceive the influence of Europe in their work. That’s why I’m not able to name only one person.

A German in Southern France

Name and Surname: Sabine Schuster

Age: 22

Country: Germany

Nationality: German

City: Passau


                                          SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY

  1. Which is the form of government ruling in your country?

(Parliamentary) democracy

spiaggia sul Danube Beach on the shore of Danube

  1. Do you believe corruption exists in your country? How much do you think it influences political life and your private life?

Yes I think it exists in political life but for me it is not visible and it doesn’t influence my private life.

Veste Oberhaus su Passau (Vecchia fortezza)Old Fortress, Passau

  1. Which is your national language? Do dialects exist in your country? If they do, are they used/known by young people?

My mother language is German.

Yes, dialects exist in my country. They are also used by young people but often they’re considered old-fashioned. Today dialects are not used by young people as much as they were used many years ago.



  1. Who do you believe to be the cultural icon of your country?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Goethe_(Stieler_1828)Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

                                           WHAT ABOUT EUROPE?

  1. Do you consider yourself European?

Yes, I do.

  1. Are you able to name a person that you consider symbolic for European culture?

Leonardo da Vinci.

640px-Leonardo_da_Vinci01 (1)Da Vinci’s statue in Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi




Name and Surname: Raky KONE

Age: 21

Country: France

Nationality: French

City: Toulouse





1. Which is the form of government ruling in your country?

Presidential Republic with a semi-presidential system.


2. Do you believe corruption exists in your country? How much do you think it influences political life and your private life?

Of course I think it exists, as everywhere. I just think it is less evident than elsewhere, so that it doesn’t directly influence our everyday life or the political life.



3. Do you consider yourself European? [For non-European people: could you explain why you chose Europe?]

I consider myself French, and of course France is part of the European Continent and Union. That’s why I am supposed to consider myself a European citizen… Actually I can’t really see why I should do that, because being a European citizen would just be the same as being a world citizen. In effect, as a jurist I see citizenship as sharing common culture and language, but Europeans DO NOT share them. So, for me being European is just the consequence of political agreements among European countries, leading to some economical or political advantages. But I don’t feel European.






1. Which is your national language? Do dialects exist in your country? If they do, are they used/known by young people?

French is my national language. Some dialects still exist in France but are not really spoken anymore. Recently movements arose in order to promote them, through their reintroduction as taught subjects in schools or used for signage and public trasportation in cities as a part of their cultural heritage. However they’re not spoken anymore.



2. Who do you believe to be the cultural icon of your Country?

I don’t know.


3. Are you able to name a person that you consider symbolic for European culture? [For non-European people: do you perceive the existence of a “European culture”?]

The Beatles ?



Reg. Tribunale di Bergamo n. 2 del 8-03-2016
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