21 Pages


Early enough, growing up in Paris, France, I became an artist. Probably by default.Grownups didn’t teach me ethics, but mainly manners, languages and theR’s. I was never schooled in affairs of the world and its inhabitants, human and non-human. I learned that on my own, over many decades and the hard way. Being an artist was easy. All children would grow to be artists if left alone. I drew, painted, sculpted, visited our bookcases full of wondrous illustrated books, fairy tales from the 1920s and the Victorian era left-over from my older half-sister’s early years: the Thousand and One Nights, Larousse’s large volumes on history, costumes, art, botany, etc. I seldom read but imbibed the illustrations. On Sundays, my father would take me to the Louvre. I was a little girl from an affluent family. We had servants; our car was a Rolls Royce when I was very little, followed by a beautiful Chrysler. That was in the 1920s and 1930s, between the wars, before the War. I had nannies and governesses. I was exposed to my parents and vice versa only at times of maximum grooming, on both sides. We were lovely to each other. On the third floor where I lived, the servants bad-mouthed them and bullied me. The house where I was born was a three-story building with basement that my father had built for my mother. She had a gorgeous contralto voice and sang Russian Gypsy songs accompanying herself on the piano or guitar for intimate audiences of family and friends, in lieu of cabaret patrons who would have been her audience if, as a starving refugee from the Russian Revolution, she had not met my father one cold and snowy Parisian day in January 1921. He was already married and his wife said “No Divorce!” So my mother and father, much in love, lived “in sin”, and I was a love child. Father was a dealer in precious stones and oriental pearls, which he caressed lovingly and somewhat erotically on his desk when a new batch arrived from all ends of the world. He also was devoted to the Italian Renaissance and visited all the places where it had flourised, in Italy and elsewhere.