where their copies (the original marblenpieces are now housed in the Louvre)nadorn the western gates of the TuileriesnGardens and the start of the Champs-nElysees on the other side of the Placende la Concorde.nThe revolutionaries of 1789 alsondecided to demolish the equestriannstatue of Louis XV, which used tongrace the center of what was thenncalled the Place Royale. For almost halfna century the renamed Place de lanConcorde lacked a centerpiece,nRobespierre and his successors havingnbeen unable to produce anything moreninspiring than eight stony-bottomedngoddesses, each symbolizing a differentnFrench city. But in 1833, when annEgyptian obelisk from Luxor (the giftnof the viceroy, Mohammed Ali)nreached Paris, it was decided to place itnin the central spot that had once beenngraced by Louis XV on horseback.nThe result was a visual miracle, andnlike most miracles, it was accidental.nIt only remained for another groupnof revolutionary fanatics — those of then1871 Commune — to complete theirnwork of destruction, by not only lootingnbut gutting Philibert Delorme’snRenaissance Palace of the Tuileries, fornthe present miraculous vista to benopened up — all the way from thenLouvre and the smaller Arch of thenCarrousel past the graceful obelisk ofnLuxor to the monumental Arc denTriomphe in the distance.nBut, alas, for a number of years pastna new group of wreckers have beennbusy ruining this unique vista. Aboutn20 years ago it was decided that Parisnhad become such a congested, carcrammednmetropolis that it was imperativento construct a new business centernbeyond the city limits. Thus was born ankind of urban satellite, composed ofnskyscrapers and high-rise buildings, locatednon the heights beyond the Seine,ntwo miles west of the Arc de Triomphe.nOne might have thought that the plannersnof this satellite city, intended tonprovide office space for multinationalnand other large corporations, wouldnhave taken pains not to place theirnskyscrapers in the visual axe de mire,nand sufficiently removed to the left andnright to allow the Arc de Triomphe tonstand out, as before, in all of its solitarynsplendor. But not at all. With a callousndisregard for visual aesthetics theynerected their Cyclopean structures al­n44/CHRONICLESnmost directly in the “line of fire.” Thenresult is that the beautiful cornices ofnGabriel’s townhouses (now the Ministrynof Marine and the Hotel denCrillon) are no longer outlined againstnthe pure blue or cloudy sky, as onendrives up the Rue de Rivoli. Evennworse, Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe,nviewed from the Louvre or the Placende la Concorde, now seems hemmednin by somber blocks of concrete toweringnup over the distant horizon.nThe final touch to this work of visualndesecration has been added bynMitterrand himself. To “crown” thenconcrete mountain range beyond thenSeine, he decided that a soaring “Gateway”nwas needed—doubtless to epatern(dumbfound) the bourgeois and tonarouse the enthusiasm of the toilingn(but also tasteless) masses. It is not easynto describe the crass ugliness of thisnpiece of “architecture,” if such it cannbe called. It consists of two verticalnslabs of concrete, 105 meters apart,njoined at the top by another hugenhorizontal slab, and pompously entitlednthe “Arc de Triomphe denI’Humanite.” The horizontal slab is sonhigh that even though it is located twonmiles farther west, it forms an aerial barnand looks like a piece of scaffoldingnrunning across the broad arch ofnNapoleon’s Arc de Triomphe to anyonencoming up the Champs-Elysees.nUnfortunately, unlike scaffolding, thisnmonument of demagogic fatuity cannotneasily be removed — unless somenterrorist chooses to blow it up, fornwhich achievement he would certainlyndeserve a Legion d’Honneur medal —nand it is likely to remain a permanentneyesore for years to come.nTo give Mitterrand his due, it shouldnbe said that he has only been walkingnin the footsteps of his equally tastelessnpredecessors. In the early 1960’s, thenthen prime minister, Michel Debre,ndecided that Gaullist France could notnbecome a truly great power unless Parisncould boast at least one skyscraper.nThe result was the 45-story TournMontparnasse, which wrecked havocnon the old bohemian Montparnassenquarter dear to Modigliani, Picasso,nHemingway, Henry Miller, and SandynCalder, and which, because it wasnlocated in the wrong place, shatterednthe graceful skyline of Gabriel’s EcolenMilitaire, when viewed from the EiffelnTower and the Champs de Mars.nnnSomewhat later President ValerynGiscard d’Estaing also heeded the sirens’nsong of the “modernists” andnto honor his predecessor, GeorgesnPompidou, a tubular monstrosity — anFernand Leger painting expressed innplastic form — was erected just east ofnthe central Halles market area. Need Inadd that this eyesore has now overtakennthe Louvre, Versailles, and the Cathedralnof Chartres as the most visitednmonument in France?nIt remains to be seen if the absurdn”Arch of Triumph of Mankind,” westnof Paris, will in its turn overtake thengrotesque “Centre Georges Pompidou”nas a gigantic tourist attraction.nFor those who have never heard ofnPierre Lescot, Jean Goujon, PhilibertnDelorme, Le Vau, the two Hardouins,nGabriel, and the landscape architectnLe Notre (all of whom must bensquirming in their graves), it might justndo that. But if the colossal, as OswaldnSpengler once suggested, is a symptomnof decline, then the Fifth Republic isnen pleine decadence.nCurtis Cate is a historian andnbiographer who lives in Paris.nLetter From thenLower Rightnby John Shelton ReednUS Out of DixienBrowsing at a local newsstand the othernday, I spied a startling comic book, issuen#11 oiCaptain Confederacy. Its $1.95nprice was even more startling (the lastncomic book I bought, back aboutnaught-56, cost something like 15ncents), but I had to take this one home,nand did. Let me tell you about it.nIn the book, it is the present, in anSouth that won the Civil War. Thenprotagonist is an actor who plays CaptainnConfederacy, a superhero in Confederatentelevision propaganda films.nHis former girlfriend is the actress whonplays the captain’s companion. MissnDixie. There are a dozen or so supportingncharacters, including “MonsieurnHex,” an underground agentnfrom Free Louisiana, and Dr. KitsunenLee, a Japanese woman a/k/a “thenWhite Ninja.”n