“France Is Not A Terrace”

Photo by Zdenko Zivkovic
Photo by Zdenko Zivkovic (via Flickr)

One resident of Paris’s 11th arrondissement writes that France “isn’t entirely covered with bar terraces.”

Bérengère Parmentier, writing for the French publication Libération, urges that the idyllic view of France—of Paris in particular—that has pervaded the internet since the November 13th attacks shouldn’t take our eyes from the reality of the country. “All the onziémiens… know that what they emobdy is not always embraced in France nor by every French person,” referring to the spirit of the youthful, progressive arrondissement. “There are places in France without any terraces. Where girls and boys do not kiss in public… This is also France.”


Parmentier goes on to invoke the names of one of the victims who perished in the attack on Le Bataclan, Matthieu Giroud, a man he says he never knew in life. “He loved music, and he certainly loved terraces,” Parmentier says, but Giroud was also a cultural geographer who penned several papers on the effects of gentrification (link in French)—what he called embourgeoisement. For example: the young, intellectual bourgeois and the working class that live in “difficult cohabitation” with each other in neighborhoods like the 11th.

“If I understand correctly,” Parmentier continues, “it started with a very simple principle, not new but always useful, that the geniality of terraces covers (and not very well) class conflicts. To live together in peace, Matthieu Giroud suggested, it is not enough to have one next to the other other in the same neighborhood, the same building, the same street. We must confront the complexities and difficulties in society.”

“Like this, for example: France is not a terrace.”

“There are sons of bitches who want us dead and want those we love dead,” Parmentier says in closing. “Let us not forget that the France we want to build against them also includes those are not en terrasse.”