Familiar names, new surprises

February 21, 2020

by Irene Vazquez

As I write this blog post, I’m listening to Gaël Faye’s album, Pili pili sur un croissant au beurre. I first came to know the Franco-Rwandan novelist/rapper/poet in an academic setting; he’s the author of Petit Pays, our second novel for our literature class, “Traversée de la Ville.” Set in Burundi and Rwanda during the genocide, it is part of our unit “the city under siege.” How do we come to know cities through the lens of literature? How does the conditions under which we encounter the city change our narration of it? Though the novel is not strictly autobiographical, it draws from his childhood in Bujumbura. 

On Friday night, I came home after dinner to find my host mother watching Les Victoires de la Musique (the French equivalent of the Grammys). Since it’s the 35th anniversary of the awards, they’d frequently show montages of previous winners of the awards, which is where I saw Gaël Faye for the second time — he was the 2018 winner of the “révélation scène” award (much like the Grammy’s Best New Artist). It was then that I discovered the other side of his work, and I’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop since (with a brief break to listen to the new Tame Impala album). 

My second full week in Paris went much like this, full of familiar names with new surprises. We went to the second and third of our classes here (some classes were doubled up this week because next week some of our professors are on vacation, along with most other French university students). 

The thing that sets study abroad apart from short periods of travel is the way that you get to know a city that is only revealed in your second and third weeks there. I’m grateful to be back in Paris, revisiting some of my favorite old haunts and encountering them through the eyes of new friends. I’ve come to recognize all the regulars at the cafe near the Alesia metro stop. I took a friend from APA to my favorite restaurant up in the 18th for some of their excellent couscous. On the way home from our first FMS night out, I opted for a ride share bike instead of waiting the 30 minutes for the Noctilien home. The city, cloaked in the 3 am silence, was like something out of a Fitzgerald novel. 

Time waits for no man, and neither do midterms, so I’m excited to have this next week to profiter de la ville

About the Author

Irene Vázquez is a junior at Yale, originally from Houston, Texas. She's a poet by both training and compulsion and serves as co-president of WORD: Performance Poetry at Yale. When she's not writing, she likes drinking coffee, buying too many books, and pointing out the differences between her Yale experience and that of Rory Gilmore.

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