Cimetière du Montparnasse ☆☆☆

 (Photo by Indabelle)

The Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris

This cemetery built around an old stone windmill (sans blades) is a place of pilgrimage for fans of 20C literature.

Here lie Baudelaire (in Division 6), Guy de Maupassant (in Division 26), American author and activist Susan Sontag (in Division 2), playwright Eugéne Ionesco (in Division 6), and Samuel Beckett (an Irishman with a live-long love affair with Paris who was buried here in a secret ceremony in 1989; in Division 12).

Long-time lovers Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are buried together under a single slab (in Division 20). Their slab is usually covered in flowers (for obvious reasons) and... Métro tickets? OK, there are three prevailing theories for this:

  1. Sartre supported the Boulevard Voltaire riots, in which people died trying to get into a closed Métro station.
  2. Sartre supported a group of French Maoists who gave away free Metro tickets after the 1960s fare hike.
  3. Some random visitor laid upon the grave the Métro ticket they used to get all the way up here, others followed suit, and a tradition was born.

Keeping all of those literary lights company are the likes of composer Camille Saint-Saëns (who wrote Carnival of the Animals; in Division 13), and Andre Citroën (the car guy; in Division 28).

The grave of Alfred Dreyfus

There are also a number of Jewish graves, including that of Alfred Dreyfus, falsely accused of treason and espinoage in 1894 in what became known as the infamous "Dreyfus Affair."

After a shameful and scandalous cover-up (in which the army realized it had accused the wrong man and silenced the real culprit by exiling him to desert service, but all the while kept Dreyfus imprisoned on the hellish Devil's Island), the French government was pressed to make things right.

Dreyfus was—eventually—not only found innocent and released from prison, but also reinstated in the army with a promotion. Dreyfus when on to volunteer for active duty again in World War I, and was eventually granted the Legion of Honour.

Upon his death in 1935, some 29 years after being exonerated, the body of Alfred Dreyfus was paraded through the streets of Paris lined—coincidentally, but touchingly—with thousands upon thousands of French troops ranked to celebrate Bastille Day.

The Brancusi Kiss

The Montparnasse Cemetery is also home to the most famous example of Brancusi's oft-revisited Cubist sculpture Le Baiser ("The Kiss"), a pair of lovers fusing into one, lips attached, arms wrapped around each other, feet intertwined.

The sculpture decorates the grave of Tania Rachevskaia, a friend of the Romanian sculptor who reportedly committed suicide over love. You can find it in division 22, section 22.

Photo gallery
  • , Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Indabelle)
  • , Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by wiga269 ॐ FEMEN)
  • , Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo )
  • , Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Greg Whalin)
  • The grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, decorated with flowers and metro tickets, Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by generalising)
  • A detail of the grave of the much-wronged Alfred Dreyfus, Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Peter Reed)
  • Brancusi's "The Kiss" headstone, Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by insunlight)
  • The Cénotaphe for Baudelaire, by José de Charmoy (1902, Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by dr_zoidberg)
  • The old stone windmill at the heart of the cemetery, Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Marmontel)
  • A cherry tree in bloom, Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Dinkum)
  • The kiss on a tombstone in the cemetery from Montparnasse in Paris. It is a copy of the sculpture from an Italian artist Antonio Canova circa 1800., Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Dinkum)
  • , Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Eric Pouhier)
  • A Jewish tombstone, Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Fredrik Rubensson)
  • , Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris (Photo by Guilhem Vellut)


How long should I spend at the Montparnasse Cemetery?

I'd budget about 30–45 minutes here.

Useful French phrases

Useful French for sightseeing

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Où est? ou eh
...the museum le musee luh moo-ZAY
...the church l'eglise leh-GLEEZ
...the cathedral le cathédrale luh ka-teh-DRAHL
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert?  coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme? ah kell eur es kuh suhla fair-MAY
ticket billet d'entrée bee-YAY dahn-TRAY
two adults deux adultes dooz ah-DOOLT
one child un enfant ehn ahn-FAHN
one student un étudiant uh-NETOO-dee-YON

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel

* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by " un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf.