In the New York Times, Roger Cohen laments that “Paris is gone for now.” COVID-19 has cut off its “lifeblood.” He writes (abridged):
“We’ll always have Paris.” Turns out perhaps the most famous line in the movies was wrong.
Paris is gone for now, its lifeblood cut off by the closure of all restaurants, its nights silenced by a 6 p.m. curfew aimed at eliminating the national pastime of the aperitif, its cafe bonhomie lost to domestic morosity. Blight has taken the City of Light.
Taboos fall. People eat sandwiches in the drizzle on city benches. They yield — oh, the horror! — to takeout in the form of “le click-and-collect.” They dine earlier, an abominable Americanization. They contemplate with resignation the chalk-on-blackboard offerings of long-shuttered restaurants still promising a veal blanquette or a boeuf bourguignon. These menus are fossils from the pre-pandemic world.
Gone the museums, gone the tourist-filled riverboats plying the Seine, gone the sidewalk terraces offering their pleasures at dusk, gone the movie theaters, gone the casual delights of wandering and the raucous banter of the most northern of southern cities. In their place, a gray sadness has settled over the city like fog.
“Parisian gloom is not simply climatic,” Saul Bellow wrote in 1983. “It is a spiritual force that acts not only on building materials, on walls and rooftops, but also on your character, your opinions and your judgment. It is a powerful astringent.”