, , , , , ,

A few days ago Juliette Gréco (1927-2020) described as the Muse of St-Germain-des-Prés and a figure of the après-guerre and the Existantialism Mouvement died in Ramatuelle in the Var region of France, age 93.

It was Jean-Paul Sartre, writer philosopher, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic (1905-1980) who encouraged her to go into a singing career. His books on the topic fascinated a whole generation and was a way of looking at the world after the Second World War. I remember in school in Montreal we heard a lot about Sartre and our teachers would often quote him. My mother read his books and those of Simone de Beauvoir. It was the thing then and it all seems so long ago now. Though I think that revisiting Existentialism today while this pandemic is here might be helpful.

Existentialism is a form of philosophical enquiry that explores the nature of existence by emphasizing experience of the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual.

Juliette Gréco is just one of those artists whose fame makes them immortal. She sang songs with lyrics written by French poets such as Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian and singers like Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. All the greats of the XXth century French culture. She had a very long career and she left her mark.

I chose this song Il n’y a plus d’après which I think represents that era. St-Germain-des-Prés of course refers to the Paris neighbourhood where political activism was concentrated amongst the students and was the spot to be for anyone who sought to be involved in politics, mostly left wing, socialist, communist. In the song she refers to her lover who has moved to the other end of Paris away from St-Germain-des-Prés, meaning away from life from real existence, from what matters.