Henri Tomasi to his friend Jean Molinetti:

a letter from le Vieux-Port de Marseille – April 19, 1970



My Dear Jean,


Why do I always arrange for us to meet on the terrace of this bistro?… Why am I so fond of sitting across from the Vieux-Port and waiting for you here?

It’s quite simple, really. Whether in this bistro or the one hanging on the cliffs of the Pharo gardens, I get a glimpse of my entire youth here. There are so many memories that can not be erased… The sky, the sea! Nothing that happened in this Vieux-Port escaped me then. How very often my keen eyes would possess the sea, the city, from my perch above Pharo! With a delicious pleasure, I would breathe in all of the scents that arose from the quays and docks, the odor of the tide, the fish, the fishing boats, etc… And those ‘flat rocks’ below! I envied all those who could laze about in the sun, leaning on the parapets or lying belly down on the rocks. And then a great ship would arrive in an ocean of noise and at once my imagination would give rise to an absurd longing for faraway lands and journeys that I had only embarked upon ‘around my bedroom.’

Sky and sea! Their mysterious and powerful presence is a bitter odor of salty wind on the lips. The coolness of the mistral winds through this forest of riggings and sailboat masts and little fishing boats at anchor! The smell of shellfish! Idleness! So many hours spent by the sea without seeing her! How could I possibly have escaped from the sea’s bewitching spells?! …But, oh, the punishment that awaited me when I returned home in the evening, having skipped Conservatory! My entire childhood is resuscitated at the sight of the sea. And that’s why I’m sitting at this bistro awaiting your arrival.

I embrace you affectionately and eagerly await your next letter,