You Tell Me

1751: Voltaire in the Le Siecle de Louis XIV described Europe as “a kind of great republic divided into several states, some monarchical, the others mixed…but all corresponding with one another. They all have the same religious foundation, even if divided into several confessions. They all have the same principle of public law and politics, unknown in other parts of the world…”

1771: “There are no longer Frenchmen, Germans, Spaniards, or even English, but only Europeans.” Rousseau.

1796: Edmund Burke: “No European can be a complete exile in any part of Europe.” Letters on a Regicide Peace.

In a Moulins thunderstorm on Monday I sit and read news stories and blog entries from “Google Alerts”. I have a group set on topics such as Paris, France, Lyon, “Shame” and “William Shakespeare.” Under Lyon, my next destination I come across a review of CocoRosie, who played a concert in Lyon on Saturday night. The review was by “Lady C” on the MOG music site. I signed up, posted…a day later I am having dinner with Connie (aka Lady C) a Chinese Canadian, and John, her Irish (alternative instrument-making) boyfriend, in their Croix Rousse apartment in Lyon. The day bed is waiting for me, and puppet-making friends on the way over.

“I went on Friday morning being the third day of June about sixe of the clocke from Tarare in my bootes, by reason of a certaine accident, to a place about six miles therehence, where I took post horse, and came to Lyons about one of the clocke in the afternoone.

It rained most extremely without any ceasing, that I was drooping wet to my very skinne when I came to my Inne. I passed three gates before I entered the city. The second was a very faire gate, at one side thereof there is a very stately picture of a Lyon. When I came to the third gate I could not be suffered to passe into the city, before the porter having first examined me wherehence I came, and the occasion of my businesse, there gave me a little ticket under his hand as a kind of warrant for mine entertainment in mine Inne. For without that ticket I should not have beene admitted to lodge within the walles of the City.

It rained in a similar way coming into Lyon, but thanks to technology – and human kindness – I have my “warrant for entertainment.”

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2 Responses to You Tell Me

  1. Is it true, then, that Europe is its own culture? Not just some vague Judeo-Christian uber-culture, but actual culture that stretches from Portugal to Scotland to Estonia to the Balkans? There are certain constants to European sensibilities I’ve seen in my limited traveling, but since I’m American I suspect the similarities always trump the differences in my eye.But then Slavica told me the other day that I’ve become “European”. Five years in the New Europe, she says, have done that. How do you mean? I ask. She: Because you don’t fit in at home anymore, you don’t feel comfortable there.I suspect she’s got it half-right. I don’t feel as comfortable in the States as I do in Europe, however I still feel a huge gulf between myself and Europeans as I understand them. Have I then become the sole citizen of an imagined betwixt-nation?

  2. Robin Hunt says:

    Olen: of course you are Betwixt, but imagine too the gulf between Paris and the small towns of the Loire. Held together by Frenchness? Hardly: each is a different planet. One might have the stronger sense of community, the other Agnes b. I asked someone yesterday who was born below Marseilles, “are you a southerner”.”No, I’m part of my generation. I can’t define myself in these ways. I don’t really think of myself as French.”Think of the Hungarian country, and then Pest at midnight in the summer.From the limited access I’ve had to people on this trip I’d say almost everyone is saying “I don’t fit in at home anymore.” I think this is a return to our Nomadic chip of DNA that made us first wander. BUT: is Europe different from America? You bet. Foreign travel is a given here, be it for tourism, business, finding work, reuniting families. If the sense of “wonder” in this ubiquity is long gone, so too the fear of “other” that is very tangibly present in so many Americans we meet in Europe.

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