Or take this girl, for example. At a meeting just outside Paris, a fifteen-year-old girl came up to me and said that she'd been to see [The Double Life of] Veronique. She'd gone once, twice, three times and only wanted to say one thing really - that she realized that there is such a thing as a soul. She hadn't known before, but now she knew that the soul does exist. There's something very beautiful in that. It was worth making Veronique for that girl. It was worth working for a year, sacrificing all that money, energy, time, patience, torturing yourself, killing yourself, taking thousands of decisions, so that one young girl in Paris should realize that there is such a thing as a soul. It's worth it.
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The whole underneath of Paris was an ant nest, Metro tunnels, sewer shafts, catacombs, mines, cemeteries. She'd been down in the city of bones where skulls and femurs rose in yellowing walls. Right down there, win the square before them. through a dinky little entrance, were the Roman ruins like honeycomb. The trains went under the river. There were tunnels people had forgotten about. It was a wonder Paris stood up at all. The bit you saw was only half of it. Her skin burned, thinking of it. The Hunchback knew. Up here in the tower of Notre Dame he saw how it was. Now and then, with the bells rattling his bones, he saw it like God saw it - inside, outside, above and under - just for a moment. The rest of the time he went back to hurting and waiting like Scully out there crying in the wind.
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For twenty-five years I've been speaking and writing in defense of your right to happiness in this world, condemning your inability to take what is your due, to secure what you won in bloody battles on the barricades of Paris and Vienna, in the American Civil War, in the Russian Revolution. Your Paris ended with Petain and Laval, your Vienna with Hitler, your Russia with Stalin, and your America may well end in the rule of the Ku Klux Klan! You've been more successful in winning your freedom than in securing it for yourself and others. This I knew long ago. What I did not understand was why time and again, after fighting your way out of a swamp, you sank into a worse one. Then groping and cautiously looking about me, I gradually found out what has enslaved you: YOUR SLAVE DRIVER IS YOU YOURSELF. No one is to blame for your slavery but you yourself. No one else, I say!
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Admirable, however, as the Paris of the present day appears to you, build up and put together again in imagination the Paris of the fifteenth century; look at the light through that surprising host of steeples, towers, and belfries; pour forth amid the immense city, break against the points of its islands, compress within the arches of the bridges, the current of the Seine, with its large patches of green and yellow, more changeable than a serpent's skin; define clearly the Gothic profile of this old Paris upon an horizon of azure, make its contour float in a wintry fog which clings to its innumerable chimneys; drown it in deep night, and observe the extraordinary play of darkness and light in this sombre labyrinth of buildings; throw into it a ray of moonlight, which shall show its faint outline and cause the huge heads of the towers to stand forth from amid the mist; or revert to that dark picture, touch up with shade the thousand acute angles of the spires and gables, and make them stand out, more jagged than a shark's jaw, upon the copper-coloured sky of evening. Now compare the two.
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