It sits in the elongated, latticed shade of the Eiffel Tower. Stippled with Gothic architecture: ribbed vaults sit like blackened bones of whales, flying buttresses which paralyze viewers with indecision, pointed arches which could summon convenient elemental spirits if need be, and steep roofs down which certain arcane energies slide. No longer au courant in today’s hypercivilized world, all this Gothicism pushes back the odor of progress. But you must agree it has a certain charm.
Here is the palpable reality of the doctrine of worth through magnitude. The prevailing virtues here are bigger, better and more flamboyant. All this Gothic architecture shouts of sophisticated hylotheism, which states that matter is God and that there is no God except matter.
All that matters here and now is the fancy hem of matter – the ornate tombstones – under which the residents reside.
The tourists come, tiptoe around, and look. They don’t say much, and when they do they whisper. For here words are stale, emotion spends its force against nothing. For here are the dead, and the famous. The dead famous, the famously dead.
Gothic cemeteries have a smell, the scent of smooth bourbon and vanilla flavored Cavendish tobacco. The odor of an elusive familiarity. It mixes with sounds half-muffled by massive Gothic monuments – low arias for the dead. All together, the sights, the sounds, the scents, they form a necessary overcompensation. For the dead are not interesting, only their lives are interesting. Embarrassed, they make up for their present humdrum condition by not-so-subtle sensory hallucinizers.
It is Montparnasse Cemetery. The place of petrified history. The French know it as Cimetiere du Montparnasse, located in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.