Magazine article The Spectator

LIFE - High Life

Magazine article The Spectator

LIFE - High Life

Article excerpt


Saint-Germain-des-Pres and the Latin Quarter still evoke the verbose sophistry of Sartre, although the tourist and expensive jewellery trades have replaced the 'rendez-vous des intellectuels'. Yet the sheer stunning beauty of the 7eme reminds one why Paris is still the most romantic capital in Europe, the city Papa Hemingway called a fine place to be young in, and that it's a necessary part of a man's education.

Late at night I walked the cobbled streets empty of traffic thinking of the art movements born in these here sidewalks - Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, you name the -ism - and when Paris was the place to meet great artists, where Dali, Max Ernst and Joan Miro embraced surrealism, and other foreigners such as Chaim Soutine, Modigliani and Giacometti went their own Parisian way.

No other city in the 19th and 20th century can boast such a concentration of talent, with the greatest Americans like Papa, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Ezra Pound and Henry Miller thrown in for good measure.

Yet as I walked the streets that these great men had paced long ago, my mood was a sad one, as was the occasion of my visit. My close friend of more than 55 years, Jean-Claude Sauer, had died, in a military hospital, of complications that we have Uncle Sam's Agent Orange spraying in Vietnam to thank for.

I have often written about Jean-Claude in the past. He was for 45 years the number one photographer of Paris Match, and our friendship began in a smoky Paris bistro back in 1958, just after he had returned from military service in Algeria. JC, as the Americans called him, was a paratrooper who had served with distinction in that savage war of peace, as Alistair Horne was to call it in his definitive book about that conflict. Jean-Claude had caught the combat bug, and went on to Biafra, Vietnam, Yemen and back to Algeria, taking pictures while always pursuing the fair sex come hell or high water, as they say in Wyoming. (Where for a while he owned a farm until boredom almost killed him. ) I met up with Jean-Claude in Vietnam in 1971-72, where he was based with a beautiful French girl called Betty, while trying to bed the wife of Air Vice-Marshal Cao Ky, as the Vietnam vice-president styled himself. I advised caution, telling him he was far more likely to get a bullet in the back than to strike it lucky with the beautiful Vietnamese. (Anyway, I had designs of my own. ) In any case, no one got lucky until we reached Tel Aviv during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. …

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