Eduardo Lourenço and his wife, Annie Salomon, bought a house in 1974 in Vence, in Provence (southeastern France), a region bordering Italy, from where it is separated by the Alpes-Maritimes. It is a small house, among trees and flowers, with blackbirds singing, hidden by a hedge of 50 cypress trees that Eduardo Lourenço himself planted.
“It was the only thing that I truly did in my whole life. What I sweated! I thought I died …”, confessed the essayist, in May 2003, talking to journalist José Carlos de Vasconcelos, of the Editorial Board of “Visão” magazine.
After having lived in Nice for nine years, at whose university they both taught, Annie (died in 2013 at the age of 85) and Eduardo bought the house 20 kilometers from that city, in Vence, a medieval town with about 15 thousand inhabitants.
“Eduardo said: I am still here, under the last cypress to plant”, reminded the same journalist Annie Salomon, professor of Spanish Language Literature.
The house is located away from the center of Vence, on Avenue de Provence, 1130, a road lined with leafy trees. About two decades after the couple settled there, the house itself also had some changes. First, the old garage was transformed into an office, for Eduardo Lourenço to have peace of mind to work.
At first, Annie thought that the problem with books was solved, but as time went by, the new garage also filled with books, “displacing” the car, which started to be arranged in a carport, practically outdoors.
Eduardo Lourenço often referred to the great location of that house – superb landscape, from the valley to the summit of the Alps -, in a region traditionally chosen by artists, especially painters. Paul Cézanne, one of its famous residents, was born in Aix-en-Provence. In fact, the Provencal temperature and light also attracted artists such as Matisse, Green, Chagall and Picasso, although the former (painter who was a forerunner of “Fauvism”) was more connected to Vence.
It is recalled that a prolonged illness had taken Henri Matisse to Cimiez, where he stayed at the Hotel Regina, in the early 1940s. There, he had as a nurse Monique Bourgeois, to whom the painter’s connection to Vence is due, where she moved in 1943. Meanwhile, Monique became a nun and, in 1946, already Sister Jacques-Marie, asked her to make the stained glass for the Chapel of the Rosary, built for the Dominican Convent. The painter, enthusiastic, did not stick to the stained glass windows – in yellow, green and blue colors – but developed work that lasted from 1949 to 1951, involving drawing the temple itself (also known as Matisse Chapel), decorating the walls and even the design of the chapel bell that, for many years, had reminded Eduardo Lourenço that it was time for lunch.
Already retired, the essayist would go to bed late, get up early (at half past eight, nine o’clock) and, after breakfast, he would start buying newspapers and magazines in the morning. He read everything – “Le Monde”, “Libération”, “Figaro”, “Le Nouvel Observateur”, “Le Point”, “L” Express “,” Magazine Littéraire “,” La Repubblica -, although without the voracity with which he read what came to him from Portugal (magazines and newspapers, even including some local newspapers).
About 300 Portuguese lived in the area where he lived (“almost all came from the Espinho area”, as he used to say), but Eduardo Lourenço knew very few.
In the words of Eduardo Lourenço, the small town of Vence was the last stage of a long exile – which started in Hamburg in 1953, when he was 30, and took him to Heidelberg, Montpellier, Salvador da Bahia and Grenoble -, as well as being a location chosen also for its altitude and climate, which proved to be healthy for Annie Salomon’s asthma.
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