Saturday, April 26, 2008

The brand of Oscar Wilde.


Last Sunday I made a pilgrimage to the Père Lachaise cemetery, in the northeast of Paris, to pay my respects to the shade of Oscar Wilde. I found I was not alone.


The great man’s grave was surrounded by quite a crowd, including a party of Japanese students, a family of Germans (the father was wearing lederhosen) and an assortment of young people in their twenties: French, Italian, British and American.


As I arrived, one of the young women (an English student from St Andrews) was planting a kiss on the huge Jacob Epstein effigy that surmounts the poet’s grave. She was kissing the marble deliberately, to leave the lipstick impression of her mouth on the monument. “Why did you do that?” I asked. “Because I love him,” she replied. “We all do,” added another of the girls. “He’s one of us.”

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