Friday, February 4, 2011

Writers' Graves

The tomb of Oscar Wilde, Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

As I mentioned on Wednesday, once upon a time, I was a 24-year-old wannabe novelist who suffered from anxiety disorder. And a friend of mine suggested we go interrailing for a couple of weeks, and I said ooh, cool, yes. Or maybe I suggested it, I can't remember.

This is why I am now a 26-year-old wannabe novelist with less anxiety disorder than before.

While interrailing, my friend and I ended up in Paris, and we went to visit the Pere Lachaise cemetery. People can have very mixed feelings about cemeteries - my own feeling is that they are pleasant but a little sad, and I don't find them terribly meaningful. If I told you how many times I'd been to my Dad's grave since he passed away, you'd be very shocked (especially if I told you about the time I almost drove into it but that is another story entirely). I just . . . don't believe there is anything much there. If there is an afterlife, I don't think anyone is hanging around in their final resting place unless it was chosen for meaningful reasons.

However, Pere-Lachaise is also beautiful and historically interesting, and I was very keen to see it. My friend and I had a lovely morning there. We visited Jim Morrison, who has a full-time security guard, and Abelard and Heloise, and lots of other interesting people.

Then we found Oscar Wilde. Two Irish girls in Paris - who else would we go looking for?

Oscar's grave, as you can see above, has been decorated with lipstick kisses and notes from fans from all over the world.

At the base, there is a plaque that reads:

Respect the memory of Oscar Wilde
and do not deface this tomb.
It is protected by law an as historic
monument and was restored in 1992.

We smiled at that. We didn't leave notes or kisses - but we did leave the cemetery thinking that the rock star had a security guard but the writer didn't. And yet it was the writer who was drawing people to him, the writer that prompted this outpouring of affection. Much of this is down to Wilde's private life, and the persecutions he suffered, of course - but it was nice to see, and the two former English students and book nerds left the cemetery happy, and it certainly gave me a little blast of patriotic warmth.

Have any of you guys seen a writer's grave you enjoyed seeing?


  1. Yes, a famous poet in my country.

    He was burried in a casket semented to the floor of a cave in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the country.

    One day, I would like to be burried in a place as beautiful as that.


  2. I haven't seen any writers' graves, but I have assembled a list I call The Great Grave Adventure, for Jen and I to tour the US visiting graves like Bill Finger (the under-credited co-creator of Batman), Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, etc.

  3. Misha, that sounds like a beautiful place. Which poet?

    Paul, that sounds really cool! I have a Grave Tour of Europe planned, and of Britian. Someday I am planning to do a huge literary road trip around the UK, hit the most famous bookshops, literary sites and literary graves. Obviously I'll post the itinerary here if I ever do it :)

  4. Ohhh I will have to go there on my next trip to Paris. It is funny what warrants such attention in these here times!

  5. I would love to visit that cemetery.

    On our recent London holiday, we went to Westminster Abbey. I spent ages in Poets Corner before I realised I was actually standing on top of Charles Dickens!

  6. Sounds wonderful! I haven't (as far as I can remember) seen any writer's graves...but I do love the commemorative statues of poets in Central Park. I believe there's one of Wilde there, as well as Longfellow, Scott, and Shakespeare.

  7. In my case, it's not a writer's grave, but a photographer's grave. The well known Canadian photographer Malak Karsh is buried in a cemetery not far from here, close to the grave of one of our greatest Prime Ministers, Lester Pearson. It's a tranquil, peaceful place to visit.

  8. Very cool. It's interesting how many people have left their mementoes!


I love comments!