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Regards sur la culture: Les étapes de la vie
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All deaths in France must be reported to the local mairie … Once this formality has been carried out only then can one cremate or bury the body. Only 14% of dead are cremated in France (compared, for example, to 97% in Japan). Although funerals in France tend to be relatively simple affairs, the national funeral of beloved writer Victor Hugo was an exception: thousands of bereaved French followed his casket through the streets to his interment at the Panthéon.

One of the most impressive cemeteries in Paris, Père Lachaise sits on 108 acres in the 20th arrondissement. Inaugurated in 1804, the cemetery holds the remains of such literary and artistic luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Édith Piaf, Molière, Balzac, Marcel Proust, and Maria Callas. With over a million visitors a year, the cemetery is as much a park as a cemetery. Its cobblestone paths wind among striking examples of funerary art: tombs are topped with sculptures and intricate architectural details. Upon arrival, one obtains a map detailing the gravesites of the many celebrities buried here. The grave of composer Frédéric Chopin is famous as a spot for posting love letters. Throughout the cemetery are handwritten signs pointing the way to singer Édith Piaf’s grave. The gravesite of Jim Morrison, who died in Paris in 1971, has become a mecca for Doors fans, who decorate it with graffiti, flowers, and beer cans and create such havoc that a special security guard has been hired to guard the site. In 2001, when the grave’s lease expired, there was a strong movement to dig up the body and move it to a less public spot; the lease was, however, renewed.



Décrivez un cimetière américain. D’après ce que vous venez de lire, est-ce que vous pensez que cela ressemble à un cimetière français?

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