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August 9, 2016


Square Danielle Mitterand and its Sounds

by soundlandscapes

THE SQUARE DANIELLE MITTERAND, formerly the Jardin de la rue de Bièvre, is a small green space at N° 20 rue de Bièvre in the 5th arrondissement.

The Jardin de la rue de la Bièvre was created in 1978 but on 8th March 2013, International Women’s Day, it was renamed Square Danielle Mitterand.


Danielle Émilienne Isabelle Gouze was born in October 1924 at Verdun in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France. During the Second World War she was a liaison officer in the French Resistance where she met François Mitterrand. They were married three months after the Liberation, on 28th October 1944. François Mitterand went on to become President of France from 1981 to 1995.


The Square was named after Danielle Mitterand in recognition of her work in the Resistance movement and her subsequent work for human rights.

In 1986 she founded the Fondation Danielle Mitterand – Frances Libertés, an organisation dedicated to building a fairer and more socially-responsible world by defending human rights and protecting shared assets, specifically by promoting the right to water access for all and ensuring that people’s right to utilise their resources is recognised and respected.

The foundation’s work has three component parts: support for projects run by communities at grassroots level, citizen, civil society and political decision-maker awareness raising work, and finally advocacy work with the public authorities and in the United Nations. The Foundation has consultative status on the UN Economic and Social Council.

Over the years, the Foundation has participated in many issues including the right to free potable water for all, the fight against racism, support for the Tibetan people and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. It has also worked for the reconstruction of the educational and social system in Cambodia and on issues surrounding health security in Africa.


The location of the Square Danielle Mitterand is appropriate since it’s just two doors away from N° 22 rue de Bièvre, the private residence of François and Danielle Mitterand from 1972 to 1995.

Although Danielle lived at N° 22 during that time, François commuted between there and rue Jacob in nearby Saint-Germain and the home he shared with his long-time mistress, Anne Pingeot and their daughter, Mazarine.

The Mitterand ménage was undoubtedly complicated but nevertheless seemed to work remarkably well. In 1958 Danielle acquired a long-term lover of her own, a gym teacher who sometimes fetched the morning croissants and then sat down to a friendly breakfast with François.

All this was widely known in Parisian society but a compliant and complacent French press kept it under wraps until the end of Mitterrand’s presidency in 1995.

Both Danielle Mitterand and Anne Pingeot attended Françcois Mitterand’s funeral in 1996.

Danielle Mitterand died in Paris on 22nd November 2011, aged 87.


Sounds in the Square Danielle Mitterand:


The Square Danielle Mitterand is not the most elegant square in Paris but I like it. Sitting at the back of the Square on an August afternoon I was content simply to listen to life passing by in the Square and in rue de Bièvre.


Rue de Bièvre

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. hmunro
    Aug 12 2016

    Although I know this street well and have walked past this park a dozen times, I’ve never stepped inside — so thank you for taking me behind the fence, as it were! Your recording is proof of how vibrant these little “ruelles” can be, even when they at first glance appear empty. It was fun to hear the vintage-sounding phone yield to the song “Freeze Frame” playing in the background. I also got a big kick out of how loud the Americans sounded as they departed with their tour guide. (Even from a distance they competed with the radial saw! An impressive feat.) The buzzing fly was also a welcome surprise. But please tell me: Near the beginning there was the sound of a zipper, as if someone were perhaps opening a suitcase or duffel bag. What was that? It was the only scene I couldn’t quite imagine when I closed my eyes and listened …

    Anyway, merci infiniment for your wonderful post.

    • Aug 13 2016

      Thanks Heather.

      The sound of the zipper came from the well-worn bag belonging to a ‘gentleman of the road’ who came and sat on the bench next to me. He opened his bag and removed a parcel wrapped in newspaper, which, when opened, revealed the meagre pickings he’d collected for his lunch. I kept the sounds in the recording because they represent a significant aspect of the Square Danielle Mitterand.

      Incidentally, during the whole of François Mitterand’s presidency, the rue de Bièvre was closed to vehicular traffic.

      • hmunro
        Aug 14 2016

        Thank you for the back story behind that zipper, Des. I wondered whether it was the fellow I’d often seen in that park. I’m glad you kept those sounds in because they certainly confirm my own observations of the little park.
        As for the vehicular traffic: One of the locals had told me that, too — and opined that the city of Paris had gotten so used to not driving on this street that the traffic never resumed, even after it opened back up. I think it’s more likely because the street is treacherously narrow, though. The very idea of trying to navigate it in a car sends me into a cold sweat!

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