Paris death salon shows life and new trends in funeral industry

April 8, 2011
Salon de la Mort 1

(A television journalist speaks to camera as she tests a coffin on show at the 'Salon de la Mort' -- Salon of Death -- in Paris April 7, 2011/Charles Platiau)

“Care to try out the coffin?” Surprised but intrigued, the young man lays himself down on the ivory satin fabric and holds his breath as the heavy lid closes over him. At the Salon of Death, everything is permitted.

For the first time in Paris, death is the star at a free exhibition taking place underneath the famed Louvre museum.

“It’s good to talk about death in the heart of the capital, because we’re a society pretty much based on consumption and leisure,” said Jean-Paul Soltani, who makes funerary monuments in the northwestern region of Brittany. “And here, we’re right next to the museum where they’ve got pharoahs’ tombs!”

Funeral parlors, organ donation societies, embalming techniques, and lots and lots of marble — it’s all on display at the Salon of Death, in a surprisingly clinical atmosphere. Organizers hope some 25,000 visitors will stroll through the Salon to admire the rows upon rows of biodegradable coffins or the luxurious funerary urns.

Salon de la Mort 2

(Brigitte Sabatier prepares her stand of bio-degradable cardboard coffins during media day at the 'Salon de la Mort' -- Salon of Death -- in Paris April 7, 2011/Charles Platiau)

Or rest one’s head in a coffin, as the case may be. “There you go, I did it,” said one young man who braved the experience. “It felt like chasing away a little devil.”

A publisher’s stand displayed a selection of funeral requiems on CDs and non-religious books such as “Knowing How to Die” by the ancient Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca or “Reflections on the Guillotine” by French writer Albert Camus. At another stand, a former journalist explained how his company helped people who have had near-death or out-of-body experiences to meet and talk about what they lived through.

Read the full story here. Or the original French article — La Mort tient salon au coeur de Paris.

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