In the film Paris in the Month of August, the main character enjoys the absence of his wife and children and rediscovers the charms of a carefree life, thanks to an accidentally-met beautiful stranger. In real life, in Paris in August, the main character falls in profound frustration after three days of searching for an open hairdresser and spends his evenings watching from his balcony when the apartment of his neighbour gets robbed.
The art of disappearing
In the City of Lights, there exists a golden rule: everybody has to go on holidays in August and they all have to go at once. This rule was introduced many years ago and now there is no possibility of changing it. If it was otherwise, Parisians couldn’t talk about holiday destinations in July, which means that they would not at all interact in July. If it is August and you are wandering the streets of Paris instead of sipping a caipirinha in Saint-Malo or riding camels in Egypt, it means that you are probably either a foreigner (and within the scope of interest of the National Front), or that you completely ignore the principles of peaceful life in a society which you have chosen as yours. Every Parisianer will tell you that – in August Paris est la ville morte, to be spotted in Paris in the month of August is a shame comparable to pissing in a pool.
There are two main reasons for leaving Paris: to be absent in the city in this month (if somebody sees you, it will become clear that you have stayed) and in order to return to city in September and tell stories about holidays outside of Paris which you have taken in August. Everybody must leave – Parisian stylists, dealers and prostitutes, Parisian sellers of chestnuts from Pigalle as well as Parisian spiritual descendants of Derrida, Sartre and Badiou and Parisian Polish plumbers. During the eighth month of the year, the French capital’s restaurants, shops and business incubators close and all protests are suspended. Unfinished croissants and café au lait at restaurants’ terraces ejaculate sadness like Lana Del Rey in the song “Video Games”. The people who work in the capital’s cash machines leave too, so think of withdrawing some cash in July.
When the cat is away, the mice are at play
The absence of oneself in a place where one lives is a state giving a broad spectre of possibilities, however it is very often underestimated. Parisians are largely aware of the fact that an empty apartment is a perfect opportunity to dry laundry, grow hair and interest on a bank account, and record EastEnders on VHS. Your absence at home is a perfect opportunity not to clean, not to shop, not to walk the dog and to leave letters unread in the mailbox. If you have children of school age, the absence of the family in the appartment is also a perfect time to do the famous experiment with baby teeth in Coca Cola, to see if it’s true that they dissolve.
The case of the others’ – friends, relatives, colleagues — absence in the city is no less potent. August in Paris is a perfect month for those who have a taste in recording messages on answering machines of everyone else's home phone. Once you get over the fact that your friends make it easy for burglars greeting them on the phone with: “We are on sunny Corsica until the 23rd of August”, you may use your imagination and leave them your message. It can be a declaration of love, an expression of resentment deeply buried in your soul, or a bunch of slander. The person I question will never hear it anyway, because who would listen to recorded messages when there are photos from the holidays to sort out?
A survivor in the empty city
When it comes to being alone in Paris in August, in turn, let’s start with a piece of advice: if you hang around with the Parisian kool kids, and this year it happened that you’re staying in the city for holidays, you better not tell them about it. Anticipating your question – yes, of course, there are real Parisians who spend August in the city, but they are commonly associated with the character in the film Lily Sometimes.
Paris in August is a paradise for those who like to work wearing the same clothes in which they sleep. Nobody will care at work, because in order to care, they would first have to be present. If you are a journalist and you spend August in Paris, you may consider going gonzo in a mental institution. If not then, when?
"Hypocentre" — this is how depopulated Paris could look like
Depopulated Paris is like a banknote without print – you may draw on it whatever you like and try to pay for something with it. In August in Paris you walk down the street and you see its end. You take the metro and you find a place to sit. If somebody felt like erecting a statue of Stalin on Place d’Italie (one of the places in Paris on which there stands nothing), it would stay there untouched until September.
For after August, there comes September. Facebook is saturated with photos of happy people by the pool who radiate with vitamin D. In these photographs, zero people stand in a line for free cocktails on all-inclusive tour in Greece, of course. In the metro, it is good to show untanned places peaking from behind pieces of clothing from the latest collection of Charles de Gaulle for H&M. Paris commences its real life.
*This text is partly inspired by the quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five”: ” All this happened, more or less”. It should by no means be taken seriously.