Monday 13 October 2008

The Past was Yours but the Future’s Mine

(Bd de Menilmontant, 75020)
Coming out of a cemetery it is entirely possible that you'll want to rub your eyes and start looking back to the future. Fortunately, at Père Lachaise you have just that possibility as positioned directly opposite the cemetery is a caravan belonging to a fortune teller.

The French have a very schizophrenic relationship with fortune telling. Beneath their very Cartesian exteriors, they have always been great consumers of horoscopes and other predictive services. François Mitterand famously used a astrologist when President, and Raymond Domenech, the French football coach, has picked or dropped players because of the icompatibility of their star signs. It is not unusual either to hear of the French police services bringing in mediums to help with investigations that have arrived at a dead end.

Should it be considered such a paradox though? After all, if you believe that life is without mystery and that all can be explained, should it not also be logical to believe that some people with a little extra insight can read our pre-plotted paths? However we choose to look at this phenomenon though, it’s clear that business is quite brisk for
Altiz, the Père Lachaise ‘mage’.

It is a fantastic piece of opportunistic positioning too, comparable to the flower sellers that surround the cemetery. He would find trade at any cemetery, but Père Lachaise is particularly apt as it contains the tomb of
Allan Kardec. Kardec was the founding father of spiritism in France, and his resting place competes with Jim Morrison as the most visited shrine in the cemetery.

From Kardec’s tomb, it is a short step to Altiz’s caravan, and he openly admits that he has profited from this proximity. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this service though is the fact that it is supported by the city of Paris. Altiz rents the space from the city council, who consider that he is a living example of a tradition with a long history in Paris, and which deserves to be preserved. A hundred years ago, such caravans would have been found throughout the city, but Altiz today is the last survivor outside of the fairground. Time may have moved on since then, but people will never stop wanting to see what is ahead of them.


PeterParis said...

Once more, really interesting. I'm fascinated by your blog! I noticed the grave whern I recently visited Père Lachaise - and then learnt a bit aobut the man and about spritism.
I have created a link to your blog from my sidebar. Hope that many others wll discover your blog!

Adam said...

Thanks Peter - I'm honoured!

Anonymous said...

Hi Adam, great blog. Would love you to guest post on my blog. How do I contact you - email address?...cheers.

Adam said...

I've now added a contact link to the front page.

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