A PARIS MOMENT – SARTRE AND DE BEAUVOIR’S MYSTERIOUS CHANGING TOMBSTONE

 

REST IN PEACE…WELL, NOT QUITE

 

While I was going through my photo archives the other day I noticed something strange.  The tombstone on Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir’s grave looked different when I visited the Cimetière du Montparnasse earlier this year than it did when I first went in 2007. I had thought that there was something different about it when I stood before it last May, but I wasn’t really sure until I looked back through my photos the other day. The earlier smooth surfaced stone had been replaced by a new chiseled out one, that displays their names and dates in relief. When I did a quick search online to try to find some information about when and why the older stone was replaced (which I found much more aesthetic in its simplicity of form) I didn’t learn anything about the recent change, but I did come across an interesting story about something that occurred shortly after Sartre’s burial. It seems that in 2010 the marble plaque that had been placed on his grave when he was buried in 1980 and that had been stolen shortly thereafter,  turned up in, of all places, Columbia.

It now appears that the plaque was stolen by the Colombian poet Arnulfo Valencia. Columbian author William Ospina apparently was told at some point by Valencia that he had stolen it and was still in possession of the plaque, but at the time Ospina didn’t believe him. When Valencia died recently, he told his daughter on his deathbed that he still had the plaque, which he said had been broken into four pieces. His relatives have indicated that they want to auction the 20×30 centimeter stone and donate the proceeds to a fund for Columbian poets. I’d be interested to know what the French authorities think about that. When I searched for information on Arnulfo Valencia I only came up with the Radio Netherlands 2010 report about the theft of the plaque in 1980 and Valencia’s deathbed confession and nothing else.

The headstone that now adorns the grave is apparently the third one since the original plaque was stolen in 1980.

Sartre 1This is the earliest image I could find, placed on the Internet by David Conway in 2001. This is probably the stone that replaced the stolen plaque.


Sartre 2This is my photo of Sartre and De Beauvoir’s grave  taken in February 2007 on my first visit to the Cimetière du Montparnasse.


Sartre 3And this is what I found when I visited their grave in May 2014. At the time I thought it looked somewhat different.


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