The center of the universe

tale-of-the-wind-100x156From a favorite novel, set in Paris in the world of mid-nineteenth century theatre, a time and place of revolutionary art and politics.

The protagonist, Jeanne Sorel, a young woman of wonderful intensity and resilience, remembers a key lesson from her mentor, Nandou, an actor.

“She walked to the place du Calvaire and stood for a time looking down at the panorama of Paris. An odd feeling began to grow: that it all unrolled from her person; that the hundreds of skeins of streets, the broad strokes of boulevards, the curving metal of the Seine were all flung out from the core that was Simone Vollard. She remembered a day when Nandou had taken her to a bookstore and they had gone afterward to sit outside a cafe and watch the passersby.

Tell me, my dear, he said, what is the center of the universe?


He smiled and said, No, and then, tapping the side of her head, It is here. And here, tapping the side of his own. And out there, in each person passing by, in every bird in the chestnut trees and every cat who watches it. From its own perspective, every living thing is the center of the world. That is an important thing to remember sometimes, and sometimes to forget it. I believe it is the secret of all man’s glories, and the heart of all his troubles.

From Kay Nolte Smith’s A Tale of the Wind, pp. 505-506.