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A Pleasant Surprise March 22, 2014

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.

Guest post written by Fatima Tee

March 22, 2014



At the quiet corner of the street where I live sits a wine bar. It stands a few steps higher than street level – unimposing and unassuming, under the spotlight of a single lamp post, guarded by a couple of palm trees. It boasts of a curious, small square patch of grass – a known sanctuary to blankets and moon rises, while it teases passersby with a promise of wine and discovery.

As if to fulfill that promise, I find myself drawn to an image of Robert Doisneau’s Le baiser de l’hôtel de ville (“Kiss by the town hall”) – a photograph of a couple kissing amidst the busy streets of Paris, partially disguised behind bottles of vino, hanging against the mustard wall of Cyrano.

While the kiss looked like a moment of romantic spontaneity perfectly captured, much to my chagrin, I learned that the kiss was “staged” by a French couple named Françoise Delbart and Jacques Carteaud, whom Doisneau just saw kissing. The photographer asked the lovers to repeat the kiss and shot the two at three different places – the Place de la Concorde, the Rue de Rivoli and finally the Hôtel de Ville. This image became an international symbol of young love in Paris and has since been reproduced into thousands of prints, with one among the thousands resting at Cyrano’s walls.



To Cyrano’s friends, it is a well-known fact that the bar was named after Cyrano de Bergerac, a French dramatist and duelist whose life was immortalized into a fictional play by Edmond Rostand. Unattractive, eloquent and hopelessly romantic, he defied the romantic hero archetype with his panache and unforgettable definition of a kiss:


And what is a kiss, specifically?
A pledge properly sealed,
a promise seasoned to taste,
a vow stamped with the immediacy of a lip,
a rosy circle drawn around the verb ‘to love.’
A kiss is a message too intimate for the ear,
infinity captured in the bee’s brief visit to a flower,
secular communication with an aftertaste of heaven,
the pulse rising from the heart to utter its name on a lover’s lip: ‘Forever.’

Translation by John Murrell (1995)


I might have read far too many mawkish novels in my time to be reading some romance into this. I should have asked Alex, one of the owners, if anybody ever took notice of this picture and made a connection between Cyrano de Bergerac and this picture of a kiss.

I still can, and I absolutely will. But right now, I am just pleasantly surprised and grateful to have found a place that’s a steady walk from where I live, where conversations and wine are a dime a dozen; a place where you can either watch the moon or let the moon watch over you.





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