Saturday, July 4, 2009

George Sand and the Hotel Named After the Author

In the city of Loches in the Loire Valley, Christine and I stayed at the George Sand Hotel, the guest house that carries her name. Yes, George Sand was a woman. She was born Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin and she became the most famous female writer of 19th century France. She authored novels, stories, plays, essays and memoirs. She was the epitome of French romantic idealism and in her literature she questioned sexual identity and gender destinies in fiction. She demanded for women the daily freedom of life that men took for granted. She wrote "The world will know and understand me someday. But if that day does not arrive, it does not greatly matter. I shall have opened the way for other women."

As brilliant a writer as she was recognized to be, she was prominent as much for her lifestyle and personality. The time in which she lived, with its restrictions and conventions, drew notoriety to her way of life. Aurore was married to a baron, scandalously left him, taking her two children to live on her own. She became friends with many artists, writers, and musicians like Eugène Delacroix and Franz Liszt and had romantic relationships with others, most notably Frédéric Chopin. She was loud, lewd and shocking. She was anything but the typical Parisian lady of the 1800’s. Her protest of treatment of womankind was manifest in her dress, that is no dress. She wore men’s clothing, suits, pants (long before that was acceptable), ties and a top hat. She smoked cigars. She became iconic because of her fame as a writer.

And Christine and I stayed in a charming hotel named after her, an aged old building, with a tiny entrance off a seamy street, with rooms, on three levels to which you climbed with luggage round and round the tightest circular staircase with head bumping low spots in the ceiling. And of course, our room, because we chose to pay less, was up with the pigeons or whatever else requires less oxygen. It looked like the attic with the structural support beams serving as obstacles en route to our beds each night. Ours is the tiny gable window in the roof. It did have a great view over a waterfall and the sound of running water 24/7 and it had a fine restaurant with good food. Then we learned that Paris has a George Sand Hotel with an elegant environment and beautiful furnishings which would have set us back a few Euros. Oh yes, on the outskirts of the city there is another less elaborate one with the same name, Hotel George Sand, Courbevoie, France; and another at 26 rue des Mathurins

The pleasant French proprietors knew nothing about George Sand.

At Hofstra University in 1976 Friends of George Sand founded the George Sand Association as a literary society, the purpose of which is to encourage and foster research and scholarship on George Sand.

Sand's "Story of My Life" is available from Amazon

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