Thursday, February 23, 2006

Parisian culture

The other day I was listening to a French radio station (hoping to improve my French by osmosis). It's a mainstream station, has football commentaries sometimes, but generally it seemed far more intellectual than most UK stations, with lots of serious discussion of films and books. It reminded me of cafes in Paris during my trip at xmas; I heard a guy telling another about a documentary he was doing, looking back to the time he covered the troubles in Northern Ireland. I just had to go over and speak to him, saying that I had written about it for the Open University and visited with a few students.

Another time there was a group of young American/Latin American academics sitting near me in another cafe on Rue de Rivoli, discussing academic politics - how some people get jobs they don't deserve, etc. One said that he'd recently given a paper called: "Towards an ethics of Latin American literature". Not the kind of chat you tend to hear around Wembley and rarely in central London. I felt like asking why one would need a specific ethics for Latin American lit.; a specific politics maybe, but ethics are usually considered to be pretty universal if they are to be valid - but I let it go. However it was encouraging to be in a culture where this sort of cafe conversation/radio discussion was pretty normal. The tradition of Sartre and De Beauvoir lives on.


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