The Flâneur

Shari’ati critically observed and passionately engaged with the people, places, and culture of his host country. His curious mind traveled between reality and imagination and sought to understand his relationship with people and his surroundings. The locations in this section reveal some of Shari’ati’s flâneur attributes in Paris.

Bibliothèque National

Address: 5 Rue Vivienne Paris 75002

In October 1959, Shariati obtained a research card and frequented the Bibliothèque National in the mornings. He praised the collection of Iranian manuscripts found there, which he claimed to be around a few thousand.

Reference:
Shari'ati, Susan, Beresad be Dast Puran-eh Azizam, Tehran: Aban, 1394, p. 70.

Monsieur Claude Bernard's Bookstore

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Address: 79 Boulevard Saint-Michel Paris 75005

This was a story of two people whose similarities brought them ever more together and then one stark difference separated them forever. Shari‘ati visited this bookstore primarily to chat with the owner, a friendly and understanding intellectual type, whom he enjoyed confiding in conversations. Shari‘ati intimated that he had a telepathic connection with the owner. According to Shari‘ati, Monsieur Bernard was a freedom lover who had fought in the Spanish and Algerian civil wars against the colonizers. He had the mind of a kāfar (disbeliever) but the heat of a mu‘min (believer). The story of their separation was rooted in a difference of opinion on the most appropriate design of a series of sketches by Monsieur Bernard as a wedding card. Bernard eagerly asked Shari‘ati to pick the most suitable design and when he did, Bernard informed him that the sketch he had chosen was intended as a funeral card, not a wedding card.

Reference:
Collective Work, Vol. 13, pp.368-369

Note: Shari’ati did not provide an address or name, however, this particular bookstore is situated on Saint-Michel and across from Jardin de Luxembourg, which is how Shari'ati described its location.

Gare de l'Est

Address: 75010 Paris

Shari’ati wanted to leave Paris and traveled to Marseille from Gare de l’Est in August 1958 or 1959. Shari‘ati was again in one of his dejected, panic-stricken, and hypersensitive moods. He felt as though he cannot breathe and was at the end of his rope. He wanted to get away and walk along the sea. He distinguished between the warm, friendly and gentle Mediterranean Sea and the “cold, filthy and shameless Manche”. He derided Manche or the English Channel because it was at Tourville, a department of the Manche, that Solange drowned.  

Reference:
Collective Work, Vol. 33/1, p. 352.

Green Bench

Address: 98 Boulevard Arago Paris 75014

Shari‘ati recounted the story of three statutes, two of which moved: a mysterious girl, himself, along with the real statue at the entrance of the Jardin d’Observatoire. For a year – which could have been one night – Shari’ati told the story of a grey-eyed and grey-haired South European girl who sat close by but was completely immersed in her own world that she did not even “see” him. Shari‘ati believed that there was a deep complicity between them, without ever having exchanged a word. Shari‘ati admired her serenity, her peaceful soul, which he compared to that of a nun. She seemed as though she was in a mystical state walking on top of the clouds and she seemed as though she was an artist at the Beaux-Arts. According to Shari‘ati, the girl became the equivalent of a Rosas (Rosas de la Chapelle) in his dreams and fantasies. He never really met her at the Jardin d’Observatoire, but three years later while Shari‘ati was in Geneva, he met her while sitting at a café on Lake Geneva. She had metamorphosed into a sensuous, provocative, and seductive women. She came to speak with him. Shari‘ati walked away from her as she continued to talk. 

Reference:
Collective Work, Vol. 13, p. 375, 381-382, 388-389, 395-402.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Address: 75006 Paris

Shari’ati described this park 5 years after the liberation of Paris in 1949. He mentioned old men playing cards, “mainball” (which it is actually Pétanque, he had forgotten the correct name of the game), and “golf” (which he misuses for croquet), kids playing with their boats at the fountain in the middle of the park, girls and women who were sunbathing on the benches in the park and the young men who were looking for an excuse to start a conversation with the girls.

Reference:
Collective Work, Vol. 33/2 p. 1027.

Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel

Address: 75006 Paris

Shari’ati described the people he observes in these neighborhoods: the bearded and leather jacket-clad pseudo-existentialist young men, mimicking Robert Hussain and Jean Jaures and girls copying Brigit Bardot, Francoise Sagan, Francoise Hardy and Sylvie Vartan. These young characters come, go, talk, laugh, kiss and pass by hand in hand and eye in eye.

Reference:
Collective Work, Vol. 33/2, p. 1028.