Auteuil and the bourgeoisie

Looking back, I think the first time I ever even read about the Paris quarter of Auteuil was in a short story by Marcel Aymé (1902–1967) called Le décret (The Decree), a story about going backwards and forwards in time in which the narrator says: “During these famous seventeen years I had in fact moved and had left Montmartre to come and live in Auteuil.”

Stories by Marcel Aymé

In other words, he had given up all pretense of being avant-garde and had sold out to the establishment.

Note that this was the narrator speaking, not the author. Marcel Aymé himself remained in Montmartre until his death in 1967.

The story Le décret is one of the ten stories in his collection Le passe-muraille (The man who walked through walls).

I later read in the autobiography of Simone de Beauvoir that she never even considered moving to such a bourgeois quarter as Auteuil, even in the years when she was teaching there at the Lycée Molière and Sartre was teaching nearby in Passy. Instead, they both commuted by Métro from the more congenial neighborhoods of Montparnasse or Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Restaurants in Auteuil (with a first-generation Vélib’ station on the right)

Although Auteuil is certainly an affluent quarter, I was surprised to find that in some ways it is quite similar to other parts of Paris. Auteuil has some typical Parisian newspaper stands and a lot of friendly cafés and restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating. It has two Métro lines with nine underground stations. It used to have eighteen first-generation Vélib’ bicycle stations, and most of these seem to have (finally) re-opened under the new Vélib’ Metropole.

And there is even a Wallace Fountain in Place Jean Lorrain, where the Auteuil Market is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Wallace Fountain in Auteuil

These Wallace Fountains were given to the city of Paris by the English billionaire Sir Richard Wallace (1818-1890), who was concerned that the Parisians did not have an adequate supply of clean drinking water after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.

Like most of the Wallace Fountains in other parts of the city, the one in Place Jean Lorrain is made of cast iron, painted dark green and has an elaborate roof supported by four lovely young women called caryatids, representing the virtues of kindness, simplicity, charity and sobriety.

My photos in this post are from 2015. I revised the text in 2019.

See more posts on the Paris quarter of Auteuil.

5 thoughts on “Auteuil and the bourgeoisie”

  1. It might not have appealed to Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre, but to me this looks like a lovely place to live – a little more peaceful than the city centre but still near enough for easy travelling

    1. They were never very flexible about where to live. Beauvoir was born in Montparnasse, grew up in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and lived for a few years in the Latin Quarter. (All close together on the Left Bank.) Sartre grew up in the Latin Quarter and lived for many years in Saint-Germain-des-Prés near what is now the “Place Sartre-Beauvoir”. In their last decades they lived on opposite sides of the Montparnasse Cemetery, where they are now buried. They share a grave, though they rarely lived together while they were still alive.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. It looks like a lovely area and I have not been there. Hopefully, I can go next time I’m in Paris.

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