National Geographic : 1972 Jul
in a procession around the square singing 'Auld Lang Syne.' We ended up on the Ile St. Louis pushing the trombone player through the streets in a grocery cart at two o'clock in the morning." Paris has been used to student antics, some zany, some frightening, since Notre Dame and the University of Paris-the Sorbonne-grew up together in the Middle Ages. There is little left that is reminiscent of the antique univer sity except the name Latin Quarter, surviv ing from the time when courses were taught in that ancient tongue. The Quarter, though, remains the symbolic heart of Paris's reputa tion as a seat of learning. Student Unrest Leads to Deeper Troubles I met two law students, Franck Reinhard and Jacques Portal, while walking there one day. They invited me to Franck's apartment, on the ground floor of an old building in the Rue des Boulangers. "Young people today are pretty much the same everywhere," Franck said. "The same tastes, the same ideas. A little impatient, per haps, that the world is not as good as we would like it. You see what is happening to Paris. Still, I never want to live anywhere else. Paris has everything. I hope to practice law here after I finish my studies." It was not at all the figure of a radical who sat opposite me, and it was difficult for me to conceive of those days, only four short years ago, when many thousands of students took to the streets in violent demonstrations that shook the entire nation. The trouble had been coming for a long time. Dissatisfaction stemmed from the fact that higher education in France was a huge state system, hardly changed since Napoleon's time, with anti quated curricula and oppressive examina tions. Also, the schools were terribly over crowded and lacked adequate facilities. In early 1968 a young radical, Daniel Cohn Bendit, headed a leftist coalition of students that seized Nanterre, a suburban branch of the Sorbonne. On May 3, the police were ordered to break up a student meeting in the Latin Quarter, and the Sorbonne shut down for the first time in its 700 years. Riots re sulted, and, as the unrest spread, the univer sity system in France ceased to function. Throughout May there were ugly scenes in Paris-barricades, tear gas, rocks and clubs, with more than 1,000 casualties. Then the trouble deepened further as the working classes joined the demonstrations, citing their Pleasure outweighs catch as a fisher man on the Ile St. Louis unhooks a gardon, a type of carp. Health officials rate the Seine in Paris as almost dead from the effects of urban wastes, but anglers still pluck small fish from the murky river. By the sunny quays (left), Parisians once bathed, laundered, and shopped at merchants' boats tied to iron rings in the wall. The Cathedral of Notre Dame looms on neighboring Ile de la Cite, where Paris was born 20 centuries ago.