It's Sunday morning, ten o'clock, at the corner of rue Jacob and rue Bonaparte in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, not quite two weeks ago. A young man is walking toward the corner from the direction of the Buci market. He is twenty years old, miserably dressed, behind a pushcart full of flowers. A young Algerian selling flowers - illegally, but then his whole life is illegal. He walks toward the corner of Jacob and Bonaparte, which is less closely watched than the market, and stops there - anxious, of course.
He has reason to be anxious. Not ten minutes have passed - he hasn't had time to sell a single bouquet - when two gentlemen "in plainclothes" move toward him. They come from Rue Bonaparte. They're hunting. Noses in the wind, sniffing the fine Sunday air for irregularities the way a bird dog might sniff for quail, they head straight for their quarry.
The Algerian has no license to sell flowers.
So one of the two gentlemen goes over to the puschcart, slides his clenched fist underneath, and - how strong he is! - overturns the cart, flowers and all, with a single blow. The intersection fills with the flowers of spring (Algerian Spring).
Einstein isn't there to record the image of flowers on the ground, stared at by the young Algerian flanked by France's representatives of law and order. Nobody is there. The first passing cars avoid the flowers, instinctively drive around them - nobody can stop them from doing that.
No one is there. But wait, yes, there is someone, a woman, just one woman. "Bravo!" she shouts. "If the cops always went after them like that, we'd soon be rid of the scum. Bravo!"
But another woman arrives from the direction of the market. She looks at the flowers, and the young criminal who was selling them, and at the jubilant woman, and at the two plainclothesmen. And without saying a word she bends down, picks up some flowers, walks over to the young Algerian, and pays him. After her another woman comes, picks up some flowers, and pays. Fifteen women. All in silence. The plainclothesmen are fit to be tied. But what can they do? The flowers are for sale and nobody can stop people from wanting to buy them.
The scene lasted just under ten minutes. Not a single flower was left on the ground.
After which the plainclothesmen had all the time they wanted to take the young Algerian off to the station house.
- Marguerite Duras, in "France-Observateur," 1957