À la recherche de Georges Perec


Today at 7 pm I drank a glass of red wine at café de la Mairie at 8 Place Saint -Sulpice in Paris. In October 1974 Perec sat here and observed the street for his text ‘Tentative d’épuisement d’un lieu parisien”.

I sit down at a small round table at the right side of the cafe and order our drinks.

I ask the waiter with the round belly if he has ever heard of Perec. He asks me if I am looking for brasserie “Georges Perec”. I guess he has never heard of him. I ask some of the other waiters who work here but none of them has ever heard of Georges Perec. Though one of them tells me that many writers come here to work.

I look around me and see some men bent over their Moleskine or laptop. They must be the writers the waiter is talking about.

You can imagine Perec sat here, observed the street. the passers by, the cafe, the traffic, people crossing the square etc. and wrote down what he saw.

Café de la Mairie has a glass wall on the right side (after entering, with your back turned towards the door) . Small tables are lined up against the glass window. The window gives view onto a side street of the Place Saint – Sulpice. The whole frontpart of the cafe is made out of glass. You can sit inside and look left, right and in front of you. Although nowadays a plastic tent is placed in front of the café as a roofed terras, probably this wasn’t there when Perec sat here and wrote down his observations. From here Perec probably had an overall view of the square Saint-Sulpice with the church on its left side (sitting down facing the square).

People keep coming in and going out. Waiters wear their classical black and white outfits. Lovers kiss softly. A grandmother a daughter and a granddaughter enter the cafe. Outside the light is slowly disappearing and the streetlights appear. People outside are smoking cigarettes and are lit by a reddish light coming from the upper floor of the café.