Paris, which is not in the travel guide
Why just sit and discuss literature, “decided two Ukrainians – Maryana Gavak and Elena Yashchuk-Codé, who live in Paris, and organized Literary Walks. This is a project when the capital of France itself becomes a big book, telling about the artists associated with it Among them, by the way, there are also Ukrainian ones. The organizers dedicated a separate series to them, “Ukrainian Paris.” More about the project and its opening in an interview.
“FACADES ARE NOT SILENT”
– How did the idea of Literary Walks come about?
Mariana GEVAK: The idea has been in the air for a long time. At first, we thought about the so-called club of like-minded people, where people could periodically gather and discuss books they read, practice the Ukrainian language, because, despite all the efforts, the vocabulary of Ukrainian is gradually decreasing. And so as not to be completely boring, they came up with a meeting in a place that at least somehow relates to the selected book, author or topic as a whole. Subsequently, all this was embodied in the format of “Literary walks.”
– Which author was chosen for the first walk?
Elena YASHCHUK-KODE: It took place in October 2015 and was dedicated to Ernest Hemingway. We agreed to read “A Feast That Is Always With You” and discuss the author’s work and biography.
Hemingway is a “convenient” and popular storyline for literary walks, because it is to a certain extent universal: well-known to Europeans and people from the former Soviet space. Many places are associated with his life in Paris. In general, we can say that the city and the writer “glorify” each other: Hemingway with his work, and Parisians with his constant mention of him, thanks for joining in the creation of the myth of the glorious city.
Our first walk was actually the longest in time and distance we traveled. And it was a great start. Since then, we have been making our walks once a month for two and a half years. They have become popular: we have regular visitors, and also new people come every time. It is extremely pleasant and inspiring to continue.
– What was your goal when creating this project?
O. Ya.-K.: – We wanted to discover French culture for ourselves and for Ukrainians, to connect geography with literature. Not to sit still, not to voice dry facts, but to revive our heroes. Some had to be removed from the pedestal, shaken off the golden dust of glory to see a man with his own shortcomings, difficulties, mistakes, but also the talent that provided the author with a place in history. We also had disappointments when we studied biographies in more detail, but there were also fascinating discoveries.
Paris is a big organism. Its facades are not silent, they can tell a lot. And there are cafes, restaurants, parks, hotels, various institutions where once the authors spent time, met friends, worked, walked, suffered … that is, they lived! We were lucky to see it with our own eyes, for example, to drink coffee where Hemingway or Francoise Sagan once loved to drink it.
MG: – And, probably, the most important thing – we want more Ukrainian-language initiatives. Successful and active. For almost two years we worked exclusively for free: we prepared, searched for tons of information. And the greatest joy and reward were the moments when people came to us and listened, asked, they themselves told the details that are known to them! And even those who usually speak Russian tried to speak Ukrainian. We did not set such a condition, just people caught fire, they realized that they could and that their place and time were here.
In addition, when, for example, already in the process we started looking for materials for walks, it turned out that the articles can be found in many languages, but not in our native language. Therefore, we plan to create a website where we will provide high-quality Ukrainian-language content.
“RESTORE LOST COMMUNICATION BETWEEN COUNTRIES AND PEOPLE”
– Who has already become the hero of your literary walks?
A. Ya.-K .: – From the very beginning, the principle of diversity and balance was important for us: we selected authors of the French and foreigners, men and women, combined different eras. We started with the American Ernest Hemingway, continued with the German Erich Maria Remarque, then with the Frenchman Gaston Leroux, the Irishman Oscar Wilde, the Italian Giacomo Casanova … Among the women writers we chose Georges Sand and her Ukrainian “colleague” Marco Vovchok, Francoise Sagan, Irene Nemirovsky et al. Do not forget about the classics, for example, Victor Hugo or Jules Verne.
Alexander Dumas inspired us twice: once we went to his wondrous home “Monte Cristo Castle”, the second time we dedicated a separate walk to his “Three Musketeers” (it was our greatest success in two and a half years). We still have many ideas that we plan to implement.