In the Fantômas novels, the titular villain haunts the city of Paris: he glides over the rooftops of the Palais de Justice, conspires with ruffians in squalid dives, and stalks the aristocracy at masquerade balls (disguised as himself!). The thirty-fourth title of the series, Juve in the Dock, features another setting that would have been familiar to early twentieth-century Parisians, evocative of the bygone pleasures of the belle epoque—the guinguette.
Guinguettes (gan-GETS) were popular drinking establishments located in countryside. Working-class Parisians went to these places to escape the stifling atmosphere of the city, and Impressionists like Renoir and Monet painted them.
Renoir, Le déjeuner des canotiers, oil on canvas
In 1848, an innkeeper built a restaurant perched in an old Chestnut tree he called the Grand Robinson, inspired by the tale of Robinson Crusoe. It was a hit with the public, and competitors quickly created their own treetop guinguettes around the same area.
Here is Inspector Juve, nemesis of Fantômas, describing the place:
This is what Robinson is—a hamlet in the Paris suburbs consisting of… of a collection of restaurants. It is a pleasure resort. Young people flock there in crowds every Sunday… Now let me tell you, sir, Robinson has this special peculiarity—there are very big trees there, and in the branches of these same big trees, summer houses, kiosks, if you like, are contrived, where you can breakfast and dine. Each of them forms a special private room. You get there by means of narrow winding stairways encircling the tree trunks, and meals are served by hauling up with ropes and pulleys the baskets in which the waiters pack the dishes.
Note the baskets and pulleys for hauling meals up to the customers.
In the story, Juve, tasked with protecting a document containing the location of a hidden treasure, uses one of these treetop bars as a protected location to keep Fantômas at bay, posting guards around the tree, presumably leaving the Arch-Criminal no means of entry or escape...
Check out Juve in the Dock, available now from Antipodes Press.
- The Forgotten Treehouse Bars Of Bygone Summers In Paris, Messy Nessy
- Images: Delcampe.fr