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The Street of the Fishing Cat

2014-02-23

fishing-cat-1.jpg„La rue du chat qui pêche“ (The Street of the Fishing Cat) is situated in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, in the Sorbonne area. Quite often mentioned as the narrowest street of the city, it is 1,80 meter large and 29 metres long. It was created in 1540. The street was named successively „rue des Étuves“, „du Renard“, „des Bouticles“ and „rue Neuve des Lavandières“, the street got its present name from a shop with the fishing tools.

In 1832 a railing was closing the two ends of this tiny street connecting the Quay Saint-Michel with the street „rue de la Huchette“, nowadays two central touristic points of the old Paris. 
 
As an anecdote, a Hungarian writer Jolán Földes, who lived in this street in the 30-ies of the last century, gave its name to her most famous novel, „The Street of the Fishing Cat“ which describes the difficult life of a Hungarian emigrant working class family in Paris after the First World War.
 
Seemingly insignificant street in the heart of the City of Lights seems ready to change its clothes and get out of the shadow in order to escape the boredom of the time. 
 
During my walks in Paris I must have walked in front of this street several times but I noticed it on the rainy night in June 2011. On the old worn wall on which the humidity tracks of centuries painted capricious shapes, a perfect black cat was fishing, sheltered by an umbrella held by a mysterious man. It was just surrealist. It resembled to a scene narrated by Edgar Allan Poe. I told to myself that this can happen only in Paris and I was surprised not to have noticed this urban art success before. 
 
I returned there two years later but the fishing cat was not there anymore. Some pictures witness its ephemerid presence in the city scenery. In my eyes, the street is again hidden while the flows of weekend tourists, strangers to the silent metamorphosis of spaces they squat“, continue to take this passage on their way to buy the souvenirs in the numerous shops of the street „rue de la Huchette“. Everything changes and still everything remains the same, it’s just a question of scales...
 
Meanwhile, the Street of the Fishing Cat waits, with the patience given by four centuries of history, a new dress that will make the passers-by dream. Since everything is possible... in Paris.
 
And if you ask yourself where the cat has gone, listen...
 
Alejandra Cives

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