April 02, 2016

Tomb of Oscar Wilde, Père-Lachaise

Tomb of Oscar Wilde, Père-Lachaise

Source: Bigstock

There are names that seem to come straight out of Proust’s world: Hippolyte Jean Marie Pierre Martin, Baron de la Bastide is buried not far from Isabelle Crombez, Comtesse de la Baume Pluvinel. There are also implied tragedies: a couple, with a photograph of them together on the tombstone, both born in 1954, one dying in 1990 and the other in 1991, aged 36 and 37 years, respectively. Was it that the second could not face life without the first? What a world of suffering a few words can conjure!

There are Iranian communists, Palestinian terrorists, Armenian writers in exile, Spanish aristocrats, and”€”of special resonance for me”€”the consul general and chargé d”€™affaires of Liberia in Haiti, both countries for which I have a weakness, a man with the wonderful name of Dupré Barbancourt. Could he be of the Haitian family that makes far better rum than the Bacardí family, I wondered? Oddly enough his tomb prefigures test-message orthography: It said D.C.D. (décédé), died, on 16 November 1907.

I wondered sometimes whether the survivors were always quite as devastated as they might have been by the death of the departed. Why, for example, put on a tomb the photo of someone who looks terminally (if I may so put it) grumpy? The epitaph

Here lies one who regretted the work of time as much as time at work

is not altogether indicative of a well-lived life. And I am surprised that the feminists have not yet defaced the following as being insulting to the dignity of women:

She was an excellent mother and a good wife

But perhaps my favorite inscription was the following:

Eternal regrets

under which were the words:

Concession in perpetuity

Emotions evaporate, granite remains.


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