The Artist and His Background
One night Strasbourg, I went with my triend to a restaurant near La Cathedrale de Strasbourg to try Choucroute, an Alsatian dish.
There was a cold drizzle that evening. The Cathedral, said to date back to the 13th century, was under repair.
As it was night, we could not enter the building, and the outside illumination was so dim that we were not able to examine the architecture as well as we had wished.
Under those circumstances, seeing the Cathedral only served to call to mind Tomi's prideful remark that it was a "building belonging to the Middle Ages."
What caught most of my attention, in fact, were the young lovers lost in embrace here and there along the dark alleys running between the houses across from the Cathedral.
She remarked that young people in France have to crowd into such corners because of the scarcity of suitable places where they can vent pent-up energy.
When I saw those youthful figures, I could not help but think that I had somehow caught a glimpse of Tomi's adolescence.
Pascal characterized the typical Frenchman as refined, lucid and rational.
But there is yet another, and entirely different, French temperament,found in the Gaulois, descendants of a people indigenous to Alsace from the fifth century B. C. The Gauloic character survived the Gauloi-Roman age, which saw the creation of a hybrid culture resulting from Caesar's local conquest, and still lives today strongly embedded in the Alsatian mind.
We might call it cliquish, introvertishor eccentric; but these words do not really properly describe the nature of the Gaulois.
Nor appropriate is formalistlc. toadyistic, nor phlegmatlc Neither sticky, sloppy, stolid, rugged, or angular will do...I cannot seem to find the apt expression.
Suffice it to say here that the Gauloic temperament is anything but refined, lucid or rational.
Generally speaking, a temperamental trait does not describe the whole personality.
It is merely a catch-all phrase used to synthesize a certain disposition, in this case, that of the Gaulois. Certainly, there will be found among them some with a sensitive frame of mind and others of rational outlook.
Neither let it be said that I am trying to propose the expedient premise that Tomi's mind inherited the Alsatian temperament.
All I want to suggest is that there might be some connection, considering the fact that Tomi was brought up among the Alsatians.
I have been told, that Tomi's mother and father were complete Alsatians, in both body and soul.
Tomi told me about Strasbourg: "It's a very interestig city. in buildings you see some architectures of the Middle Ages and it is a very rich city and civilized.
It's a very beautiful city, mixed up everything, French and Germanic. The food is very good too. Because you can have French food and German food."
The poster for True magazine ad.
Illustrations for True magazine ad.