Canadian Geographic - - CONTENTS - —Heather O’neill

Shake­speare and Com­pany tote bag, Paris

Acou­ple years ago, I took my daugh­ter Ari­zona on a lit­er­ary tour of Paris. Our itin­er­ary led us by the haunts of some of my favourite writ­ers who had lived and worked in the city. We passed the apart­ment where Ge­orge Or­well lived in penury and wrote about fas­cism. I pointed up to an at­tic where Henry Miller wrote about sex. We stopped at the ho­tel where Os­car Wilde died in 1900, ap­par­ently hav­ing is­sue with the wall­pa­per. Al­though I al­ways be­lieved his last words, “My wall­pa­per and I are fight­ing a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go,” were a state­ment on the im­moral es­thet­ics of the world. We went by Café de Flore, where ex­is­ten­tial­ists such as Ca­mus sat drink­ing cof­fee and came up with the idea that life was ac­tu­ally mean­ing­less, but that was what made it so won­der­ful. We went to Mont­par­nasse Ceme­tery to visit Mar­guerite Duras’s grave. There was a small flower pot filled with pens peo­ple had left in her honour. The pen in my purse was four dol­lars and I didn’t wish to part with it. “Mar­guerite Duras is your favourite writer!” Ari­zona yelled. “You’ll re­gret it for the rest of your life if you don’t stick your pen in there.” I re­lented.

We wan­dered over to see Si­mone de Beau­voir’s grave, which she shares with her life part­ner, JeanPaul Sartre, so we had to see his, too. It was like be­ing with a friend who brings her boyfriend ev­ery­where when re­ally you just want to spend time with her alone. There were kiss marks all over their tomb­stone. Ari­zona im­me­di­ately took out a tube of lip­stick and be­gan ap­ply­ing it thickly over her lips. “You will ab­so­lutely not kiss that tomb­stone,” I said. “You’ll get her­pes.” We went to the fa­mous book­store, Shake­speare and Com­pany. Wher­ever I go, I can’t help but buy books, even though they’re a pain to lug back. We were in such a lit­er­ary mood, we left with a huge pile. I still have the tote bag we had to buy to carry them in as we walked hap­pily down the bank of the Seine. Heather O’neill ( @lethal_heroine) is the au­thor of Lul­la­bies for Lit­tle Crim­i­nals, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night and The Lonely Hearts Ho­tel. What’s your favourite travel sou­venir? Tell us the story be­hind it on (@Can­geo_­travel) and (@can­geo­travel).

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