Never say die? Far from it in Paris death café
Monday 01 November 2010
Good coffee, a comfortable seat and someone interesting to talk to are the prerequisites for visiting any café, even if the conversation is about death. Last week, the Swiss tradition of cafés mortels – or death cafés – made it to Paris, with the city's first death café event held in a bistro near Montparnasse.
The concept, although a little morbid, is straightforward enough – a dozen strangers meet to have a drink and talk about death for a couple of hours. The participants in Paris were surprised by how straightforward the discussion was.
One described how she had two parents with Alzheimer's; and how, in a way, she wants them to die. Another woman of about 40 said only one sentence: she has cancer and her three children think of her as already dead.
Antoine Louis, a pastor, described how he had once received a call from his mother saying she had killed his father. "I rushed home and found my mother prostrated, immobilised, paralysed in the blood beside my father's body." It turned out that Mr Louis' father had shot himself during an argument. He said being a pastor meant he dealt with the situation better than he would have expected, and better than most other people.
In a city famous for existentialist, Gauloise-waving symposiums, people were relieved the conversation more or less avoided abstract nouns.
"Among French people, that does not happen often," said Marie Lefebvre, who attended the first session. "In fact, it's only when they talk about death."
Death is a taboo subject in France, according to Swiss sociologist and death café pioneer Bernard Crettaz. "French people find it very difficult to talk about death," he said. He says his mission is to liberate death from what he calls "tyrannical secrecy".
"I am never so in tune with the truth as during one of these soirées. And I have the impression that the assembled company, for a moment, and thanks to death, is born into authenticity," he writes in his new book, Cafés Mortels: Sortir la Mort du Silence, or "bringing death out of silence".
Paris's next café mortel has yet to be organised, but Mr Crettaz is optimistic that it's only a matter of time before France takes them up with enthusiasm. Restaurant owners in Paris draw the line at that, though, saying death talk, no matter how convivial, is bad for business.
Long after his career in English football has ended, Emile Heskey's impotency in front of goal remains an object of ridicule.
- 1 Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
- 3 Scottish referendum 'English question': Tory MPs call on David Cameron to create an English first minister in wake of No vote
- 4 Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Stamford Hill council removes 'unacceptable' posters telling women which side of the road to walk down
Kim Kardashian 'nude pictures' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence 'The Fappening' scandal
Iranian blogger found guilty of insulting Prophet Mohammad on Facebook sentenced to death
Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Jennifer Lawrence 'naked sex video' will be leaked next, threatens 4Chan celebrity photo hacker
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...