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This article is taken from PN Review 37, Volume 10 Number 5, March - April 1984.

Reading Paris (II) Stephen Romer

History flits past, under the window, with a horrible tuneless cry: 'Vee-trier! Vee-trier!' It resembles not at all the glazier's 'Gregorian division' Proust thought he heard through the intricate skeins of his sleep at ten o'clock of a morning; a sound that was taken up into the plainsong of the rag-and-bone man, and blended into the snail-vendor's Maeterlinckian lament transposed into the style of Pelléas. These have fallen silent, and sound has degenerated into noise, this one hoarse cry getting louder and then fainter as the glazier climbs the rue Lepic under his transparent load. Not once in three years did I hear its regularity interrupted by a responding call; the good citizens of Montmartre slept on behind flawless panes. When at last the thieves got round to our flat and broke a window, this vitrier was nowhere to be found. To my shame I called one out from a large firm, who rolled up in his van. The company's address was smart enough to satisfy some hard-faced insurance man sitting behind steel and glass out in the Défense . . . Very few peripatetic glaziers remain in the city, and the one who utters that cry every Thursday morning in Montmartre may even be the last, since he is apparently to be heard, on other days of the week, down by the Bourse, in the Latin Quarter and still further south. The juxtaposition of this man with his small stack of glass strapped to his back passing below ...


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