Apr 18, 2011
I first noticed this unusual and whimsical sculpture at place du Père-Teilhard-de-Chardin during a leisurely walk with the girls a couple of weekends ago, and when my random bus exploration took me past it again, I deboarded the bus quickly at the next stop.
A commission carried out by late Jean-Robert Ipoustéguy, this sculpture from mid-1980 parodically depicted the poet Arthur Rimbaud. A restless soul who travelled constantly, Rimbaud had earned himself the nickname l’Homme aux semelles de vent (“man with soles of wind”). Cleverly playing with the homophonic title l’Homme aux semelles devant (“man with soles in front [of him]“), Ipoustéguy had Rimbaud resting upon someone’s soles, perhaps his own, as the body was split in two and time-wrapped in a peculiar machine.
This is a prime example of the relationship between French(wo)men and their love of language. From whatever little I managed to glean from the French culture, everyone seems to thrive on smart plays of words, compositions that are linguistically beautiful, the subtleties in nuances of literature. How else do you explain George Perec’s lipogrammic writing of La disparition? Or the creation of verlanised verlan? Or the delight of my French teacher in showing us “the 8 flavours of passé composé” and the anticipation of other rich variations of all the other tenses? ;)