Sunday, 4 June 2017

Le bistro- unflattering description of a favourite meeting place

We know the name and location of the bistro that Brassens describes in this song.  It is called "Aux Sportifs Réunis" and it is situated opposite the "parc Georges Brassens" (Paris 15e)  Below is a photo:



It was owned by  Yanek (Jean) Walczak. He was originally a miner and took up boxing in his youth.  During the Occupation, he won the title of amateur light-weight champion.  He became a professional boxer in 1947 and the peak of his achievement was winning was winning the welter-weight championship of France. He fought the best in the world. In 1948, he fought his friend the legendary Marcel  Cerdan for the French Middle weight title but was knocked out.  He had fights in the U.S. and fought the greatest boxer in the world, Sugar Ray Robinson three times in 1950-1951.

After Robinson knocked him out in June 1951 Walczak retired from the ring and opened his restaurant in Paris. It was a place where he could meet up with his friends locally. The bistrot was frequented by famous personalities, including Edith Piaf and Georges Brassens, who lived close by in this unfashionable quarter.  His son tells us that his father was a well-liked host, who always enjoyed a good laugh.

It is said that Brassens was no longer welcome at 
"Aux Sportifs Réunis" after publishing "Le bistrot" in 1960, but that is perhaps only the natural conclusion that anyone would make after hearing the song.  This may not be true, however, and evidence will be provided later in this post.





Le Bistrot

Dans un coin pourri
Du pauvre Paris,(1)
Sur une place,
L'est un vieux bistrot
Tenu par un gros
Dégueulasse.

Si t'as le bec fin,
S'il te faut du vin
D’ première classe,
Va boire à Passy,
Le nectar d'ici
Te dépasse.

Mais si t'as l'gosier
Qu'une armure d'acier
Matelasse,
Goûte à ce velours,
Ce petit bleu(2), lourd
De menaces.

Tu trouveras là,
La fine fleur de la
Populace,
Tous les marmiteux(3),
Les calamiteux (4)
De la place,

Qui viennent en rang,
Comme des harengs,
Voir en face
La belle du bistrot,
La femme à ce gros
Dégueulasse.


Que je boive à fond
L'eau de toutes les fon-
-taines Wallace,
Si dès aujourd'hui
Tu n'es pas séduit
Par la grâce

De cette jolie fée (5)
Qui, d'un bouge, a fait
Un palace,
Avec ses appas,
Du haut jusqu'en bas,
Bien en place.


Ces trésors exquis,
Qui les embrasse, qui
Les enlace ?
Vraiment, c'en est trop !
Tout ça pour ce gros
Dégueulasse !


C'est injuste et fou,
Mais que voulez-vous
Qu'on y fasse ?
L'amour se fait vieux,
Il a plus les yeux
Bien en face.

Si tu fais ta cour,
Tâche que les discours
Ne l'agacent.
Sois poli, mon gars,
Pas de geste ou ga-
-re à la casse.


Car sa main qui claqu’e,
Punit d'un flic-flac
Les audaces.
Certes, il n'est pas né
Qui mettra le nez
Dans sa tasse.


Pas né, le chanceux
Qui dégèl'ra ce
Bloc de glace,
Qui fera dans l'dos
Les cornes à ce gros
Dégueulasse.

Dans un coin pourri
Du pauvre Paris,
Sur une place,
Une espèce de fée,
D'un vieux bouge, a fait
Un palace.

Album;- "Le Mécréant" 1960


In a run-down spot
Of the poor Paree
On a square
Stands an old bistro
That’s run by a man
Fat and  gross

If your palates’s fine
If you must have wine
Very top class
Go t’drink in Passy
The nectar served here’s
Beyond you.

But if you’ve a gullet
That’s armoured with
Steel plating
Taste this little blue
Velvety, heavy
With menace

You’ll find them here
The elite of the
Populace
All the bedraggled
Calamitous folk from
Round about

Who come in shoals
As of herrings
To see up close
The pub’s fair lady
The wife of this man
Fat and gross.


May I drink dry all
Of the Paris Wallace fountains
If from this day on
You are not seduced
By the grace


Of this fair siren
Who from a slum made
A palace
With her female charms
From top to bottom,
Nicely arranged


These matchless treasures
Who kisses them, who
Fondles them?
In truth it’s too bad.
All that for this man
Fat and gross


It’s unjust and mad
But what do you expect
To be done?
Cupid’s getting old
His eyes can’t see straight
Any more

If fancying her
Try talk that doesn’t
Annoy her
Be polite my lad
No grope or beware
The rough stuff


For her stinging slap
Two way, punishes
Cheeky men.
F'r sure, man is not born
Who will put his nose
In her cup.


Not born’s the chancer
Who will unfreeze this
Block of ice
Who will place horns on
The back of this man
Fat and gross.

In a run-down spot
Of the poor Paree
On a square
A kind of siren
Made, from an old slum, 
A palace


TRANSLATION NOTES



1)   Although in English, we pronounce Paris with the final "s" sounded, we also talk of "Gay Paree". I wondered if using it here helped the emphasis on a different face of Paris than we usually see.

2) Ce petit bleu - In familiar speech, this describes a poor quality wine

(3) marmiteux - My French dictionary tells me that this adjective means: looking old - in a bad state

(4)  calamiteux- My French dictionary tells me that this adjective means: catastrophic, calamitous, unfortunate, disastrous.

(5) fée - As well as fairy, this can mean; enchantress, siren, magician.

DID THIS SONG LEAD TO A QUARREL BETWEEN JEAN WALCZAC AND BRASSENS?

A later photograph shows Brassens and Walczac sitting happily together at the restaurant of Pierre Vedel. Walczack is sitting to the right of  Brassens.  In spite of the latter's insults, it might seem that the former boxer's face is quite presentable and he is not too overweight.  Probably the song would have been acceptable in their group as it was recognised as massive exaggeration intended to provoke but not too seriously- which Brassens often enjoyed doing.


Walczack's son now runs the business, whose restaurant he now calls "Chez Walczac".  However he has ensured that "Aux Sportifs Réunis"  lives on, to sustain nostalgic memories of the Brassens era.  All this is advertised on the Internet at:







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