The City of the Dead:

by | May 19, 2023 | Uncategorized | 2 comments

Not that anybody knows this fact, other than you my friend

Today I revisited Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Guess who I bumped into showing a Chinese tourist around his home! I told him about this story and he was so happy! He gave me a hug! I love writing!❤️❤️

et me tell you of my strange encounter on one of my frequent visits to Paris.

I entered the Cimetière du Père Lachaise, a sprawling hundred acre plus cemetery on the east of the city, in the 20th Arrondissement. I was greeted by a tall, thin old man in a brown pinstripe suit of the type soldiers were demobbed in after the war. He wore a matching battered trilby and brown brogues but, weirdly enough, no shirt or tie. He also sported a black surgical mask which was stretched over his long, pointed chin revealing a single tooth like a lone tombstone.

“Bonjour, it’s good to meet you. Where are you from? Who have you come to see?” He shouted, appearing from nowher to my initial shock.

“Bonjour Monsieur. It’s nice to meet you too, ” I replied in my best French.

“That’s my usual greeting to the hundreds of people I meet here at what I call the City of the Eternal,” the old man continued. Then, sitting on the corner of a large marble plinth he began the strangest of monologues…

“By the way, I have already guessed the answers to the questions before I ask them. I’m proud to say that my level of accuracy is pretty high.

Oh, let me introduce myself. My name is Michel Lacroix and I am the only living resident of the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Not that anybody knows this fact, other than you my friend.

Not even the security guards who stand lazily watching the three and a half million visitors who flock here annually, bemused at folks interest in the departed.

As I said, I’m reasonably good at predicting the subject, or subjects of their visits.

You have the family members, who stroll directly to the tomb of their ancestors bearing flowers or some other offerings.

Then you have the tourists, from eight to eighty who usually come to see Jim Morrison or Oscar Wilde or Proust or Chopin. You can usually tell which one by their age and dress.

Do you know, most of the beautiful young women who visit Jim Morrison weren’t even born when he left this world?

They used to hold vigils in the early days with drink and drugs and other unsavoury goings on. Totally disrespectful of such a place as this. Semi-naked young people draped across nearby graves to the shock of the relatives of the departed. It has since been cordoned off.

Then, there’s the tomb of Oscar Wilde, also now isolated from the public in a perspex box. What a way to treat such a literary icon. Enclosing him in plastic like a museum piece!

Why? I hear you ask. Well, visitors had the habit of plastering lipstick or paint on their lips and kissing the stone edifice. The family objected at having to pay for frequent cleaning so they had Oscar enclosed in a sterile box. The authorities made the excuse that it was for hygiene purposes, ha!

My personal favourite, you ask? Ah well that’s not hard. The Little Sparrow.

Ah, you know of her?

Yes, you’re right. Edith Piaf. Our national heroine. You must visit and place a few coins on her tomb. Like Proust, she passed in her forties, such a waste of life. We should cherish every moment mon Ami.

I must let you go, but before I do, let me guess. Wilde is it not?

I thought so. You look the quiet studious type, not the type to indulge in acts of wanton osculation.

Bon journee my friend and don’t forget to look up young Gaspard Ulliel, our newest resident. Such a shame, a skiing accident, thirty-seven.

Take care and hope to see you again soon!”

At that, he turned on his heels like a ballet dancer and skipped off down the Avenue Eugene Delacroix. Moments later, through the silence of the place, I heard his dulcet tones greeting another “victim”.

‘Not that anybody knows this fact, other than you my friend.’

I smiled inwardly and consulted my map. A few hundred metres from my destination, correctly guessed by the old man, I happened to look up at a modest mausoleum, the size and shape of a garden shed.

The engraving on the portico simply read, in French.

Here lie the mortal remains of Michel Gaston Lacroix. Author, Intellectual, Philosopher.

‘Not that anybody knows this fact, other than you my friend.’


  1. Johanna Casiddy

    Great post
    I really enjoyed reading about your encounter with Michel Lacroix at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise. It’s fascinating to hear about the different types of visitors and their reasons for visiting. I’m curious, have you had any other encounters with the living residents of this or other cemeteries?

    • Brian Forster

      Keep reading! I write about what I see. I just happened to be in PL when researching for my novel. I’ll keep you informed when I have the next encounter! 😊


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