Continued from our previous article what follows are a few more suggestions to better acquaint yourself with the river Seine, this magnificently extraordinary fleuve.
Pay homage to Django at Samois sur Seine
Jean «Django» Reinhardt (23 January 1910 – 16 May 1953) was a Belgian-born, Romani French jazz guitarist and composer, regarded as one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century. He was the first jazz talent to emerge from Europe and remains the most significant by far. In 1951, Reinhardt retired to Samois-sur-Seine, near Fontainebleau, where he lived until his death.
The popularity of gypsy jazz has generated an increasing number of festivals, such as the Festival Django Reinhardt held every last weekend of June since 1983 in Samois-sur-Seine. (The festival appears to be moving definitively to Fontainebleau for security reasons).
Samois-sur-Seine is a town in the department Seine-et-Marne in Île-de-France. The town extends for about six kilometers along the river’s (left bank) at the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau. A memorial plaque can be found attached to Django’s home, rue du Bas-Samois.
Watch a film : Barge life on the Seine turned to cinematic poetry
Jean Vigo made only four films before he died of tuberculosis in 1934, aged just 29. Yet no movie-lover, however eccentric, could compose a list of 100 films through which the cinema should be celebrated without including at least one of his works. The last and greatest was l’Atalante also released as Le Chaland qui passe (The Passing Barge).
L’Atalante is a barge in which two young newly-weds travel the waterways of France, notably the Seine. The crew consists of an old eccentric with a passion for cats and an equally peculiar boy. The wife loves her husband but soon grows tired of his water bound obsessions and, longing for the excitement of Paris, is lured ashore by a peddler.
The distraught husband imagines his wife reflected in the water. Meanwhile, she tires of wandering the cruel streets of Depression-era Paris. There are prostitutes and beggars and thieves everywhere. Men try to pick her up, she has her handbag stolen and she goes forlornly in search of the barge. In the end she is found by the old man, and the lovers are reunited.
The film is a masterpiece not because of the tragic story of its maker but because, as Truffaut has said, in filming prosaic words and acts, Vigo effortlessly achieved poetry. The silent L’Atalante has been hailed by many critics as one of the greatest films of all time.
Read a Seine book: by Mort, Elaine, William – or all three!
At Bill & Rosa’s Book Room we have a whole section dedicated to books about the river, Paris and France.
“There is not a river like it in the world, for beauty and passion along its banks. Its history is as old as the Jordan’s and it is no muddy stream across moonscape. If hardly a Mississippi, it still conceals treacherous sandbanks that keep boatmen anxiously marking their twain”. The Secret Life of the Seine, by Mort Rosenblum
“Along with foul water, I saw waterfowl” The Secret Life of the Seine, by Mort Rosenblum
“As habitation fantasies go, waking up every day on a teak launch tethered to the banks of the Seine is a long way downstream from shabby. Mort Rosenblum’s moveable feast has a top speed of five knots – fast enough for fun, languid enough for dreaming. Take the trip you’ll never take. This is what books are for.” — Garry Trudeau
“What a romantic notion , living on a houseboat in Paris ! Although the idea was bewitching to his wife and family, the actual business of moving onto a boat in the middle of the Seine seemed out of the question, absurd. Until one suddenly becomes available.” Dust jacket blurb Houseboat on the Seine
William « Wharton’s gritty and unembellished story – an amalgam of boat building manual and memoir of expatriate life – is fascinating. “ –Kirkus Review for Houseboat on the Seine
« A soulful, transformative voyage along the body of water that defines the City of Light. Elaine Sciolino is the perfect guide to the world’s most romantic river. » — Lauren Collins on the dustjacket of The Seine: The River that Made Paris
Join the debate Seine vs Yonne — which is the main river and which the tributary ?
The argument goes like this: if we consider the flow rates at their confluence, it is not the Seine that flows in Paris, but the Yonne!
Indeed, at the confluence when two rivers meet, it is generally considered that the one with the smallest flow dumps into the other and yields its name to the higher power. In Montereau-Fault-Yonne (where the name Fault-Yonne means “end of the Yonne”, 75 kilometers south of Paris, the Seine has a flow of 80 m³ / second when it meets the Yonne which has a flow of 93 m³ / second. The Seine therefore hydro-graphically speaking terminates into the Yonne and loses its name. And there you have it — Paris is actually traversed by the Yonne, which then flows into the English Channel. Roll over Monsieur Apollinaire: Sous le pont Mirabeau coule l’Yonne….
As you might imagine, there are similar debates at many a confluence. One in particular in the United States concerns the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
So why do we call the river that runs through Paris the Seine? The answer may well lie in antiquity and in Gallo-Roman history. Back then there weren’t any flow charts for rivers and nobody spoke hydro-graphically, did they ? We can speculate that the commercial traffic on the Seine was historically more important that the traffic on the tributary Yonne, and that the people of the Seine maintained cultural and political sway over those bozos of the Yonne. Thus when the two rivers met the Seine was the winner. At any rate, today, the Seine has had too big of an influence on Parisian history to change its name. That would be in-Seine!