Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Self Help (Paris II)

Paris without its cafés would not be Paris. So here we were, sitting and talking at the terrace of a café, as close as Parisians we will ever be, considering that we're speaking English.
E. speaks a little of French but not fast enough to make a conversation possible. We are catching up with gossips from our respective workplaces, acting with this strange familiarity that comes to colleagues meeting in exotic places.
A woman is sitting at the table next to us. She is reading a book and paying no attention to us. As usual for a French café, the tables are tightly packed together, so much so that I cannot not put my bag down between the two tables. She is facing E., her head down in her book, from time to time raising her cup to sip from the tea she ordered. She is done after a while, pays and leaves. As soon as she is gone, E. looked at me and asks "Did you see the book she was reading?" "No." I lie. I want to know if E. has gotten the correct title. He had. "Le pouvoir de penser positivement" which can be translated by " The power of thinking positively"'.
I'm surprised that he noticed the title of the book. I am even more surprised that he realizes how unusual that is in France: A mere ten yeas ago, no-one would have been caught dead reading a self-help book, let alone at the terrace of a café.
The fact that even E., who has never lived here (but visited quite often) notices the change in France's society, makes it all the more striking.
We talk as we walk back to the conference center. Paris is beautiful. It must be all that power of thinking positively.


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