Commune in France
Aubervilliers is a French commune in the Seine-Saint-Denis department in the Île-de-France region in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris, France. The inhabitants of the commune are known as Albertivillariens or Albertivillariennes.
Area: 5.76 km²
Weather: -3°C, Wind S at 5 km/h, 89% Humidity
Local time: Saturday 6:36 PM
Line 12: To my left there is a woman with her black hair pulled tight against her scalp in cornrows, in her hands she holds the open packaging for the book she has just collected from the FNAC superstore at Saint-Lazare. She has a very serious expression on her face; enormous glasses with black-rims and is dressed in dark colours, various shades of brown and black.
She looks down at the torn cardboard at the book before she puts it into her bag: Les aventures d’Alice dans le pays des merveilles (Alice in Wonderland).
A beggar gets on and starts his speech. Since arriving in Paris, I have noticed how complex the speeches of the beggars on the trains are and their distinct stages; the men – and sometimes women – begin by excusing themselves for disturbing us on our journey; they speak of their current situation and their past (often mentioning the years that they had spent working for a company, past and present illnesses and their family), they refer to us politely as Mesdames et Messieurs; the language tumbling out of their mouths in formal cadences.
This man, his grey hair sticking up from his head in grey corkscrews, then speaks of what he would like: some change, some coins for a coffee, a ticket restaurant so he can get a ‘sandwich grec’ - a kebab, he starts to describe it in detail: ‘with tomatoes, you know, and lettuce and maybe a sauce, Algerian or another, perhaps some fries.’
I get off at station Front Populaire – opened in 2012 and named after the Left-wing government that ruled France from 1936-1938. This is an area in transition, it seems, there are some housing complexes, a restaurant or two, a park and a supermarket. It’s so cold. The first bus I see has the direction: Rosa Parks.
I go the other way, and catch the bus to the Town Hall. On the way we pass a large building with the name Dubbing Brothers, and then Le Sweet Fast Food (Burgers, Tacos etc), but mainly it’s open empty blocks, some housing, it looks like there is going to be a new university campus opening there soon. Later I see a shop selling fancy, sparkly dresses called Miss Glamour. There is a small village like area with shops that have displays of bright green detergent in the window and a bookshop called ‘Sagesse d’Orient’ (Wisdom of the Orient).
At the Town Hall, it’s much more active with lots of people lining up to catch buses – the métro will be extended there soon, the stop just before the Town Hall will be named after Aimé Césaire (born in Martinique in 1913) and well-known for his 1955 paper ‘Discourse on Colonialism’ here is the start of the essay …
On the Town Hall there is a plaque that remembers a man who died defending Paris during the Second World War, in French, that reads:
Near the Town Hall, there is a large library, cultural centres, a cinema: the State is investing and has invested in this area, as it is part of the 93, one of the poorest in France. A poster reads: ‘Capitalism and borders divide us. Solidarity to all those, the men and women, who are exploited.’
A quick Google of the neighbourhood afterwards only brings up extremely negative comments from residents and others, with people commenting on the dirtiness of the place, the ‘insecurity’ and drug-deals …
Aubervilliers has more than 77,000 inhabitants, with an almost 25 % unemployment rate. The official info makes reference to a church on the historic register, Notre-Dame-des-Vertus, the fact that its theatre, La Commune, is known world-wide and the famous French poet Jacques Prévert had dedicated a poem to the town, ‘Aubervilliers’.