Luxembourg Garden, Paris, Saturday 3pm, 28o C in the shadea rare patch of shade where the green chairs marked with the stamp of the French Senate, the garden’s owner, are packed together. There are lots of people, and it’ll be worse in an hour or so, after the lingering lunches on the crowded terraces nearby. A solitary man has managed to find a chair a bit apart from the others that are clustered together, to read his book in relative peace. The muffled sound of conversations mingles with birdsong and children’s shrieks. The solitary man loves this garden’s music, composed of living sounds, breaths of air rippling through leaves and human or animal throats. It provides a soundtrack for his reading, barely audible behind the words spoken by the novel’s characters, which he also imagines he can hear. The solitary man is dreaming his own private movie, as he does afternoons in the garden, his book a succession of long takes where characters from the novel seem to materialize before him, circling around his motionless chair and his body, as he sits in the quiet shade. People pass by slowly, discreetly, perhaps feeling compelled to abide by Second Empire codes of civility, as if the formal lawns and flower beds from that period inculcated a sense of “good manners.” The solitary man experiences a feeling of joy thinking about it, gazing at the tourists in their tourist getups speak in hushed tones as they stroll along the Haussmannian paths, their foreign tongues chiming softly with the garden’s mass of sound, which is becoming more and more musical with the unexpected strains of soloists against the basso continuo of the wind, song and cries. But it is a fragile atmosphere, and the solitary man becomes all the more aware of it when he sees two women who have just sat down across from him, on the other side of the path, turn on their speakerphone for a conversation he would prefer to know nothing about. The tinny sound suddenly invades the quiet shade, startling people dozing off and readers who look up from their books; nothing of what they had come seeking here is possible any more. The solitary man objects, and receives replies of “rights and freedoms”; “respect, politeness, harmony,” he retorts, growing angry at the insensitivity of the two impervious ones, incapable of experiencing the garden’s atmosphere in a whisper, incapable of just being at a standstill, in the company of the Parisians, for a few hours or just a few minutes beneath the trees, before setting off on their business in the noisy meanderings of the big city.