Saturday, January 24, 2015

Learning | Montmartre

Montmarte's been on my mind lately, because of a few books I've been reading. You know Montmarte, the section of Paris with the Can Can dancers, artists, and Bohemian lifestyle at the end of the nineteenth century? The name conjures up visions of the Moulin Rouge, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Toulouse-Lautrec. Image from page 9 of "Le peintre-graveur illustré : (xix et xx siècles)" (1906)
from the Internet Archive Book Images' photostream on
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The name Montmartre means "Mountain of the Martyr," referring to St. Denis, who is said to have been beheaded on this hill in 250 A.D. It's interesting to note that the older, Roman name for this place is Mons Martis (Mount of Mars.) Here's a YouTube video, with the English pronunciation of the word:

If you would prefer to say a French place name as the French do, you can visit to listen to French speakers speaking the word.

There's an amusing quote about pronunciation of Montmartre in C. Alan Bradley's latest mystery, As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust: A Flavia de Luce Novel. Flavia described a facial characteristic that "can come only from speaking French from the cradle." She deduces which faculty member at her new school is the French teacher because of this trait; she supports her conclusion in a discussion of a woman in Bishop's Lacey, England. "She was from Montmartre, pronounced through the nose." 

Flavia says so many pithy things, that I probably would not have noticed the Montmartre reference, if I had not just finished reading a more macabre mystery. The Devil in Montmartre: a mystery in fin-de-siècle Paris by Gary Inbinder is a sometimes gruesome historical mystery. Toulouse-Lautrec is one of several suspects, which include Jack the Ripper and some international visitors. The characters include artists, art dealers/agents, writers, doctors, photographers, dancers, prostitutes, ragpickers and acrobats, to name a few categories.  The story takes place near the end of the Paris Exposition universelle de 1889. That was the World's Fair; the Eiffel Tower was created for the event. A young detective on the case tries to get his superiors to accept the use of fingerprints as evidence; he has read about them.  This case provides an opportunity to experiment with techniques for collecting fingerprints, and interpreting the results logically.  Look out for plot twists!

Since I'm on a Montmartre kick right now, I looked around for other historical mysteries related to the topic.  

Murder in Montmartre: an Aimee Leduc Investigation, by Cara Black is not available from SSJCPL's system, but I just requested this book through Link+. It's good to know there's another Aimee Leduc mystery that I have not yet read! I like this fast-paced series, which takes place in modern Paris. Aimee Leduc is a young private investigator with a computer-savvy partner. Because Paris has been around for so long, investigations often touch on objects or subjects which have a link to the past.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the book suggestion, Lori. Love C. Alan Bradley's Flavia series, look forward to reading Cara Black's mysteries - especially since I now know how to pronounce Montmarte. ;o)