Nov 202013


I was 20 and in Paris, Christmas, 1969, and I remember a fire-eater walking up and down the street across from La Coupole in the evening blowing flames out of his mouth and the smell of roasting chestnuts in the street and drinking hot grogs at the Select. The musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris had come out the year before in Greenwich Village and I liked the title without knowing who Jacques Brel was and I seem to recall seeing posters in Paris and wondering what he was doing there and why we were worried about him being alive and well (but perhaps this is a backward construction). Later when I was working at the Evening Times-Globe in Saint John, I would borrow LPs from the library. I borrowed a Rod McKuen record with this song on it and fell under the spell. I was young and a guy and it captured something of the self-dramatizing melancholy I was sure I felt most of the time.




  6 Responses to “A Sentimental Education: Ne me quitte pas”

  1. I’m sorry but your Edith Piaf version is actually Maysa Matarazzo’s, a brasilian singer.
    Here is Edith Piaf’s version:

    • Excellent. Thanks.

    • SORRY!
      This “Edith Piaf” version is actually Mireille Mathieu’s, a cheap, cheesy, untalented, Edith Piaf emulator ( as anyone who I unfortunately mislead to listen to this will have noticed…)
      Truth is Piaf NEVER sang “Ne me quittes pas”.
      She died in 1963.

      • Well, I checked and the song was written, I think, in 1959. But there doesn’t seem to be a Piaf cover. So you’re right. The education never ends.

        I took down all false EP versions. 🙂

  2. “Sentimental” seems appropriate, especially after reading on Wikipedia the reported ‘backstory’ to the song! McKuen’s translation of the title, “If You Go Away,” creates a different tone/mood/ atmosphere for the song than does the more literal translation of the original title, “Do Not Leave Me.”.

    The ‘Songfacts’ website quotes Brel as having said about this song: “this is not a love song, but a song about the cowardice of men.” In relation to what is reported to be the backstory to this song, this sounds fairly honest.

    My high school French isn’t good enough to translate the song, but I am impressed by the one line I have seen translated in the Wikipedia entry for the song: “Moi, je t’offrirai des perles de pluie venues de pays où il ne pleut pas” (“I’ll offer you rain pearls from lands where it does not rain”)

    • “Sentimental Education” is a reference to Flaubert’s novel, but the meaning of the word “sentimental” slips from feeling in general to our present and common sense of the word as cloying, icky, self-interested and exaggerated feelings. It’s fascinating, yes, to contrast Brel with McKuen’s interpretation, which is sentimental in the second sense. There was in the 60s and 70s (still some around) in North America a literature of white male self-pity (I’m a tough hombre but I don’t unnerstan’ wimin). When I was young, of course, I bought into that. Thomas McGuane out of Jack Kerouac (in whom we see the mother-dominated, homoerotic substructure of the genre). A contemporary exemplar is the Toronto writer David Gimour who recently got into trouble for saying he doesn’t teach women writers. His early novels were about hard-drinking victim males (I haven’t read his recent work).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.