Place de Vosges: 12th century architectural novelty

Constructed under Henry IV between 1605 and 1612, Place des Vosges is the oldest square in Paris. Its four quadrants are bisected by paths and integrated with the adjacent buildings whose ground floors have shops and cafes while the arcades have market activity. On one of Sen’s regular nightly walks around authentic old areas of Paris to experience the old time feeling of the city, he suddenly discovered the house of Victor Hugo. 

It was 2 am when he turned a corner of Place des Vorges to find this genius writer’s home. He is fascinated by Victor Hugo’s dramatic writing such as his famous book “Les Miserables”, and equally attracted to his incredible paintings in monochrome. Sen finds Ile Saint Louis, the natural islet where Paris originated, to have remarkable urban planning with all one-way roads, but Place des Vosges definitely scores higher with its true square of 140×140 Sen experiences the breath of history encased in this 17th century square which has nurtured artist-writer Hugo’s compelling writing and striking application of light in his paintings. 

Sen’s introduction to French literature started from here, but his other all-time French favourites include Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” and “The Stranger” by Albert Camus among others.


When India was partitioned 1947 to create Pakistan, a new country for Muslims, about 20 million people of Bengal and Punjab were displaced and brutally victimized. Sen’s wealthy, literate family had huge landed property in erstwhile East Bengal, the present Bangladesh, which was carved out to be East Pakistan for Muslims. So for being Hindus Sen’s family was overnight evicted from their home. Without taking any possessions, they fled for their lives amidst people warring over religion, and so became squatted refugees in West Bengal.