Monday, June 4, 2012

PARIS - Eileen Gray's apartment

 I'm staying at #CentreCulturalIrlandais in Paris for a few days to run a final research check on my latest book. It is the story of the meeting that took place between #EileenGray and #BruceChatwin in November 1972. She was the Irish designer and architect who after years of being forgotten and living reclusively became darling of international media, due to sale of her screen, #LeDestin to Yves Saint Laurent for a record-breaking price for a "modern" antique. He was the golden boy of British journalism, newly appointed to the Sunday Times magazine. His brief was to interview Eileen Gray.

I love writing fact-led fiction or novelization, as I've seen it recently described.

Before leaving Dublin with a series of maps I plotted Bruce's likely route to Eileen Gray's apartment. I wanted to be sure of the most minute detail - cobblestones or asphalt, street width, buildings and above all atmosphere.

I retraced his footsteps from the Louvre, crossing the Seine by Pont des Arts, imagining the way he looked through the slats of wood at the cold green river beneath his highly polished shoes - according to his wife, Elizabeth, he had a thing about polished shoes, with the domed elegance of the Institute de France facing him. He'd have turned right onto Quai Conti and into Quai Malaquaise where'd he'd have crossed the street to rue Bonaparte, walking up along the left footpath to no 21, the impressive hotel particuler, where #EileenGray lived for more than 70 years.

The high green gates leading to No 21 are opened, trucks are pulled up outside, workmen moving backwards and forwards, carrying various plastic-wrapped packages through the canopied entrance to the right, where I believe Eileen had her 4-roomed apartment. It looks as though the tiny entrance hall and that apartment is undergoing a giant renovation. I ask for permission to go into the apartment. The men look at me incomprehensibly - I go in anyway. It's quite wonderful - her ghost still lingers - I'm sure of it, but I can't stay as the 'boss', a sturdy, no-nonsense man is thumbing me out of the door and down the stairs.....

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