"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in Che Guevara (3)


Sarkozy, C'est Fini!


Sunday night, at Place Bastille, where at least a hundred thousand jubilant people gathered under an overcast sky to welcome a new president, it all came down to two chants.

Sarkozy, c'est fini! (SAHR-ko-zee SAY-fee-nee)!

Hollande gagne! (OH-lan GAHN-yea)!

"Sarkozy is finished," and "Hollande won."

So ended the hard-fought and often nasty election campaign which saw France turn for the first time in sixteen years to the Socialists, making the center/right Nicolas Sarkozy a single-term president. 

This was the scene a few seconds past eight p.m., when the TV station being broadcast on the stadium-sized screen at Place Bastille flashed François Hollande's photograph, over the percentage of votes (51.7%) that exit polls showed him receiving. The jubilation was reminiscent of Barack Obama's 2008 Grant Park rally on election night in Chicago:


In addition to our exclusive Paris Play video, here are faces of the evening captured in stills, with our impressions, and a word or two about what we think could come next.


A line of (mostly) women dancing and ululating with glee

A father and daughter celebrate


And plenty of time for silliness


Each time the screen showed a picture of the outgoing president, seen here conceding defeat, the huge crowd booed...


...or worse


The young and lithe climbed to the base of the famous Bastille column


Thousands upon thousands of revelers boiled out of the Metro stations...


...and boogied on to Place Bastille, swelling the crowd to at least a hundred thousand strong


He was disappointed that the police forbade him to ride his motorcycle into the huge crowd...


...while these folks on rue St. Antoine cheered the celebrants from their safe second-floor perch


The magazine L'Express was hot off the presses within two hours, while the president-elect didn't arrive to address the waiting crowd until 12:45 the next morning


There were plenty of homemade signs, and the crowd was overwhelmingly young


The ubiquitous image of Che Guevara, found wherever leftist internationalists gather


In 2008, when Obama and his supporters celebrated in Grant Park, they did so under a growing economic cloud, the result of the Bush administration's mishandling of the American economy, which meant the celebrations had to be short, because the United States was in crisis. The economy cast a pall that Obama still labors under; as he runs for a second term, the Republicans work to foster the lie that the Great Recession is the Democratic president's fault.  

Three-and-a-half years after Grant Park, incoming president Hollande labors under a similar cloud. The European economy is worse off than the United States' (though the entire world economy is yoked together), and France suffers from record high unemployment, as its citizens chafe at the austerity measures the European Union is demanding.

Hollande's victory flies in the face of that demand. He believes (as does American economist Paul Krugman) that austerity is a ridiculous policy in the face of a recession, and that economies must be nurtured with strong government measures to increase employment and strengthen social programs.

The UK newspaper, The Independent, which doesn't like Hollande, grumps that Sarkozy's defeat "...poses once again the question of whether any national leader, of any party, can impose the degree of austerity deemed necessary by the financial markets and remain electable." One of the messages that both left and right were united on this year was that "financial markets" were not governments; the French wanted French elected officials, not Brussels-based European Union bureaucrats, to make economic and political decisions for their country.

Whatever the next weeks, months, or years of a Hollande presidency have to offer, the basic question is, what kind of a world will this young will-be voter, carried by her mother to witness this critical historical moment, find herself in when she comes of age?





Fairies in Pastel

Gold balconies. Plush red seats. A spectacular painted curtain in burgundy and gold, with a real rope pull.

We’ll look at the Marc Chagall ceiling later. Who are the gold figures on either side of the stage? Are they muses? Gods and goddesses? Richard thinks one could be Dionysus, with a mask of drama raised above his face.

The curtain rises. The orchestra music swells. Four blue fairies come springing out onto the stage. I’m flooded with tears. They are so light, so quick, and the music mirrors their leaps. One princess in white dances among them. Eight women in various pastel colors circle her. A fairy in pale yellow-green arrives.



Tears for the artistry of the French. Tears for our friend who is ill. Tears for the nine months of a neighbor who won’t be reasonably quiet “because she doesn’t feel like it,” and who’s hurting our sleep. Tears for someone I love who told me to stop writing this journal, and focus on fiction. Tears for all the women who for centuries have been silencedtold by their husbands or families not to work, to serve them instead.

Isn’t it strange how beauty can release sadness?

The yellow and blue fairies dash about the stage. A man in brown-green, a forest man, comes out among the trees made of ropes, and plays hide and seek with a blue fairy with a few sparkles on his skin.

Two by two, Cossacks in Russian fur hats and fitted coats and boots, march forth, followed by Cossack maidens. Okay, now we’re seeing Christian Lacroix’s costuming genius. Their skirts are orange and red and gold, with soft red boots.



He has interwoven brocade patterns that look perfectly Russian, and also like the dresses he designed as a couturier.

Out comes a carriage, a stylized version of Cinderella’s pumpkin, and a tragic female emerges, looking like a nineteenth century European version of an “Oriental” woman. Hot pink top with gold thread. Turquoise skirt with silver thread. A gold diadem atop her head crowned with a fuchsia pom-pom.

Twelve maidens dance all around her in long kerchiefs, Cossack costumes and soft red boots that you can dance in. That seems like a feat in itself, to make shoes that look like boots, but allow dancers’ feet to be en pointe

A proud Cossack comes out on stage (you know he’s proud because he keeps holding out his arms straight, palms open in a gesture of Watch it, I’m in charge here). He dances with the Cossack princess, romantic, flirting, then with closed fists.

Then he does one of those Russian dances where you spin around and around. (I don’t, but apparently Russians do.)



Then, the princess points to a flower hanging from what looks like an orchid tree, suspended in the middle of the forest stage. The proud prince tries to climb up to get it, but his arms aren’t strong enough. He’s wasted all his energy on clenching his fists and pushing people away.

But the forest man can. He climbs up the rope and plucks a flower and hands it to the Cossack princess.

The prince is pissed, and fights with the forest guy, kills him, and puts the princess in the carriage and huffs off. 

A white fairy princess dances out from behind a tree, picks up the fallen orchid and brings it to Forest Man. He slowly revives. She cradles the flower, he reaches for it, she dances away. They dance together; he lifts her into the air. He is a tree. She is a swan.   

More fairies in white appear and circle the forest man. They dash away. Twelve more fairies emerge and all dance around the forest man and the white fairy princess.

The blue fairies and the yellow one join the dance, and then the yellow one passes the orchid to the white fairy princess, and threatening music begins.

Act One is over.

There is too much to see at the Opéra Garnier. It’s like walking around Versailles. You have to get a book to decipher all of its history and splendor, and luckily Richard finds one in the gift shop before we leave.

Act Two is full of intrigue, seductions and counter-seductions, so that you really don’t know who will win the Cossack woman’s heart at the end, the forest man, the proud prince, or Genghis Khan who only has about nine women already in his harem. But you can guess.



Later I learn that the proud prince was actually the Cossack woman’s brother, and that he was delivering her to the Khan. What I still didn’t understand was why one of the characters had to die. But I’m not going to ruin it for those of you who still haven’t seen La Source. This 1866 ballet was enchanting, but I did notice that all these women ever thought about was love. Didn’t they sometimes long for something to do?



And afterwards, we had drinks with two great friends who had invited us to spend his birthday at the ballet. We talked about boating around the rivers of Ireland. We talked about their plan to live part of the time in Paris. We talked about our beloved friend who is ill. We talked about my new challenge (inspired by TWO fairies), which is writing 1,000 stories in three years. A story a day, with one month off per year. I’m only on Day Three. But here’s my question: if those fairies in pastel could grant you a wish for your own work, your own artistry of whatever sort, what would it be? 

I’m asking a serious question here. I want to hear your answers. What else can possibly balance all the suffering in the world if not work? 

Oh yes, and love.



The pastel dancers in this article are from the streets of Paris, courtesy of the street artist Miss Tic.




Der Himmel über Paris


Imagine that you are the two angels in Wim Wenders’ film, “Der Himmel über Berlin,” (“Wings of Desire,” in America, though himmel translates as both "sky" and "heaven"), but instead of Berlin, you are in Paris on the evening of May 17, 2011. You can fly anywhere in the city and overhear conversations inside apartments you pass, or linger and watch and listen to the thoughts of the humans.

You might feel compassion for every human in every dwelling place you pass, including the men and women who make their home on the streets.

But surely there would be certain scenes you'd find more compelling than others. Even angels have preferences.

Surely if you’d passed by the windows of a certain apartment on Boulevard Saint-Germain, and saw a queenly woman dressed in black, with a humorous, wry expression on her face, seated on a divan facing a gathering of men and women eager to hear her stories, you would perch on the windowsill to listen. For this was a woman who’d traveled widely, and interviewed many of the leading artists of our time.

She wore big red sunglasses, red lipstick, and a scarf with a design like black and white piano keys. She wore sandals like those Gertrude Stein wore. She wore a black and white turban on her head like the ones Simone de Beauvoir wore.

And her first story was about Simone de Beauvoir.

Edith Sorel was living in Cuba, married to a Haitian, earning a living as a translator for Fidel Castro of his speeches.  Since he paid by the word and discoursed at length, it was a good job.



Jean-Paul Sartre came to speak in Havana, accompanied by Simone de Beauvoir. The state newspaper, Revolución, wrote an article about the noted writer, Sartre, and his companion, de Beauvoir, without a word about de Beauvoir’s accomplishments.

Edith wrote her first-ever article and fired it off to Revolución, detailing Mme. de Beauvoir’s importance as both a writer and philosopher, whose 1954 book, The Second Sex, was a clarion call for a feminist awakening.

The article was published the next day, and voilà, she received a call the following day from Simone de Beauvoir herself, inviting her to visit them at their hotel in Havana.

Edith knocked at their door, and de Beauvoir opened. She was quite beautiful, with dark hair and blue eyes, yet her voice was shrill. Whereas Sartre, who was the ugliest man Edith had ever seen, had the most beautiful voice.

Edith arranged for the French couple to meet Che Guevara, who now had the post of director of the National Bank. The meeting occurred at 4 a.m. in the bank, and Edith said that because she served as translator among the three of them, she doesn’t remember a word of what was said.

So began her career as a journalist—all because Revolución had not understood the importance of de Beauvoir, but Edith had.


She was hired first by Revolución, then was swapped for a French journalist, and sent to work in Paris. Since she wasn’t paid much, the newspaper supplemented her pay with winters in Cuba.  Her first "major assignment" was covering the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial.

For years, Edith had lunch in Paris every six weeks with de Beauvoir. The writer liked to break from her work for lunch later than most, for exactly two hours, then return to her writing. She was very disciplined, Edith said.

And throughout the time she knew de Beauvoir and Sartre, they always looked at one another as if they’d just fallen in love, each alert for every word of the other, each acting as if they were seeing the other for the first time.

From Paris, she was sent to interview Pablo Picasso in Vallauris for his 80th birthday celebration.



She was immediately struck by his piercing eyes. Scorpio eyes, she said. Everyone brought him huge, extravagant gifts. Great bottles of champagne and massive quantities of food. Even a large painting painted by the children of the local potters.

Picasso got down on the floor with the children and discussed every detail of the painting: “This bull is very fine, but perhaps his ear could be changed like this…”

He was full of curiosity and excitement, said Edith, just like a child, always curious about everything.

Later, as she was walking in the street with her photographer, a long Lincoln Continental pulled up beside them.

Hola, chica,” came Picasso’s voice from the back seat. “Get in.”

They climbed in, went with him to a café, where he asked Edith, “Did you like my birthday exposition?”

The photographer kicked her under the table.

“I haven’t seen it,” she said (although she had).

“Then I will take you to see it right now!”

And so, just as the photographer knew would happen, the two of them were led through the show by Picasso, who told them all about each painting while the photographer snapped photos.

Henry Miller… Edith was assigned to interview Henry Miller in Pacific Palisades. He was close to 80 years old at the time, and his wife was nearly 50 years younger than he.

Before Edith could get to her first question, Miller said, "Sex.  Right?  You want me to talk about sex."

She was taken aback, but only for a heartbeat.  "No.  I want you to talk about love." 



Miller looked pleased.

“You married five times. Why did you marry so often?”

“Because you had to marry women then to sleep with them.” (Does this remind you of anyone else, say, Elizabeth Taylor?) “But my great love was a woman I didn’t marry. She was 20 years older. I was 19 at the time.”

(Although Miller may have married for sex each time, his last wife, it is reported, refused to sleep with him because, "You are an old man.")

Everywhere you looked there were paintings, Edith said. Covering all the walls, and even on the ceiling. Henry Miller painted a water color every single day.



Edith made an appointment three months in advance to interview Ingmar Bergman the director of famously angst-ridden films. He was directing a play in Munich, Germany. When she arrived, the Nazi-like guard at the playhouse stopped her. No, she did not have an appointment. No, she could not see Bergman. She asked to speak to his secretary. No, he did not have a secretary.

She raised her voice, in German. The guard made a phone call. Down came Bergman’s secretary, who was appalled; apparently she had forgotten to write the appointment in Bergman’s calendar. However, Bergman’s home was not far from the theater. Perhaps she’d be willing to meet him there? This was even better, Edith said. She always liked to meet people in their own homes; it was more revealing. When she arrived, he was not there, so she poked around, and even read one of his letters.  (Or so she told him, though perhaps she didn’t.)

Bergman was a man with big ears and a big nose, so in photos you couldn’t see how attractive he was.  His height and figure and face all together were quite arresting. He was in an anguish of apology with her. He offered her a drink. She had her usual Scotch, and so did he. Still anguished over the forgotten appointment, he apologized, and then as they talked, they laughed and laughed, and had a wonderful time. The master of Scandinavian angst was a man of tremendous humor and joie de vivre.



The interview with Bergman was in sharp contrast to her interview with the comedian-filmmaker Woody Allen ("He had flaming red hair, you know.") in his apartment in New York City. You would recognize it from “Annie Hall,” "Manhattan," and “Hannah and her Sisters.” All the familiar rooms.

She began by asking him about his prolific output, making a movie once a year.

“Yes,” he said.

She asked him various questions, to which he responded “Yes.” Or “No.”

He offered her a drink. It was only 11 a.m., but she needed a Scotch. It was apparent to her by now that she’d need the skills of both a dentist and a psychiatrist to get Woody to talk.



She asked him about the films of Ingmar Bergman.

“Bergman!” said Woody Allen. “He’s my god!”

“Have you met him?” Edith asked.

“No,” said Allen.

“Well, I have,” said Edith, and then, beginning with her stories of Bergman, the interview flowed.



We who were perched on the windowsill wanted more stories from Edith. But a documentary is being made about the ABCs of her great life, and perhaps we’ll hear more of her stories then.

Even angels have to wait for things to come forth in their own time. And we have all eternity to receive them.