Twelve years ago, I spent a summer in Geneva completing an internship at the NGO Geneva Call ( « Appel de Genève » ). Being the bookworm that I am, I naturally grabbed a few books to bring with me. I know that I read through Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar that summer—I had just started using Ubuntu and was wildly (over)optimistic about the ideals of open source.
I also remember bringing a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with me—and I remember it for one very specific reason. When I packed Frankenstein for a trip to Geneva, I hadn’t realized that part of the novel is set in Geneva. It was a wild and weird experience to read a classic book while staying in the area that part of the book was set in. It was even wilder and weirder because some of the places described as distinct and different towns and villages by Shelley were now part of the greater Geneva metropolitan area, so while the characters made a big deal about traveling from one place to the other, I was taking similar trips by bus or tramway as part of my morning commute.
This memory came back to me while reading through Graham Robb’s France: An Adventure History, which contains this passage:
One morning in 1745, a seven-year-old boy walked out of Paris with his uncle to collect payment for work carried out in th village of Issy. It was a journey of about a league (seven stops on the Métro from Montparnasse). The customer paid his bill and was so lavish with his food and wine that when uncle and nephew tottered off for home, the sun had set.
When they finally made it back to ‘our own *pays’ (Paris), they found that the boy’s grandmother and aunt had gone to the Rue aux Ours to pray to the statue of the Virgin for their safe return from that faraway land on the doorstep of Paris.
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