Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Last night, since Heroes is currently in a lull “between seasons”, I decide to sit down and read straight through Bernard Chenez’s Le Resquilleur du Louvre. It’s a relatively short novel—a little more than 100 pages—about a man who has lost several blue collar jobs in a row and finds himself homeless. Because he loves art and because he’s looking for “a shelter for the soul”, he decides to make his home in the Louvre. He makes his home in a room used to store workmen’s supplies, lining up some wooden cases and felt blankets to make a mattress and using bubble wrap as a comforter. As he gets to know the room a bit, he discovers a museum employee’s schedule and badge and begins to use the latter to travel around the museum, ostensibly doing work while in reality finding ways to acquire pocket change and see the works of art.

Not only does the book give an interesting view of the daily workings of the Louvre, but it also interweaves famous art –especially the paintings of Jean-Francois Millet and the Barbizon school (of which he –and I suspect the author—is particularly fond) with flashbacks in the life of and moods of the resquilleur. (Neither ‘squatter’ nor ‘gate-crasher’ seem a good translation of resquilleur, if it’s trying to capture this man’s personality and life in the museum).

Chenez writes the novel in a stream of consciousness style that takes a little while to get into, but grows on you as you read. The one thing I found myself wishing as I read was that pictures of the actual parts of and works from the Louvre that Chenez has the resquilleur refer to were included with the story line. Some of the art—La Gioconda or Winged Victory, for example—and their locations in the Louvre are easy to recall, but even though I’ve been to the Louvre several times, the actual locations of some of the other work (including Millet) don’t stand out in my mind. Even a map of the Louvre or thumbnails of the art would help that.

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