Unless you actually enter it, rue Férou in Paris’ 6th arrondissement is, at least in appearance, just another small and quiet street. However, if you walk in from the side facing the Jardin du Luxembourg, a few steps will suffice to notice the inscription of Rimbaud’s Bâteau Ivre on the walls of what is now a tax center. Surprisingly, the idea for the fresco came from a Dutch foundation, tegen-Beeld, in the context of an initiative called “Wall Poems.” After endless negotiations with the local authorities and thanks to the financial support of the Dutch Embassy as well as over 200 Dutch donors, the wall was officially inaugurated in 2012.
The poem was written entirely by hand by a calligrapher by the name of Jan Willem Bruins and the work took him over ten weeks to complete. However, if you know the poem, you will notice that something is slightly off about it… the reason being that it is to be read from right to left, instead of from left to right! Although this was probably an unintentional mistake, a poetic explanation was found: the story goes that the words of the poem were blown there by the wind as Rimbaud recited it for the first time in a café located on the other side of the place Saint-Sulpice.
A true celebration of literature, the street was also home to Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jacques Prévert and the (almost) fictional character Athos in Dumas’ Three Musketeers.