Playing Cards is Manly – The Card Players by Paul Cézanne

The Card Players, Paul Cézanne 1892
The Card Players, Paul Cézanne 1892

Heads down, riveted towards the game. Focused and silenced by the intensity of the tension occupying the room, the three card players are attempting to unfold their best tricks. An older man smoking a pipe and a younger man drowsing spectate the scene. They act as observers in this spring sunny day. It’s midday, they had lunch, and as per their daily ritual, have taken out the decks of cards and decided to pursue yesterday’s game. No money, no alcohol, no cigarettes are involved. They play for pride, and whoever loses will not be able to show their faces in the village until someone else loses. The victor, on the other hand, will show no sign of enthusiasm nor satisfaction. It is customary in this small province to keep one’s emotions secret. When everyone lives that close to one another, it’s not uncommon to have a rumour spread fast amongst the inhabitants.

The man smoking a pipe, wearing a red scarf and crossing his arms, hosts the game. The white wooden table, the shelf, the green vase, the painting, and the collection of pipes hanging from the wall belong to this man who hid his hosts behind a draped curtain inside the kitchen and away from the dining room.  He is the owner of the bistrot, and has many years behind him of gambling, losing and winning. The cherub on his left is his nephew. The kid is an introvert, shy and sensitive. He likes to play by himself and shuns social interactions. But today he has no school and is uncle is watching him. “Playing card is manly and requires smart moves. You can learn from it”. Not sure of what that meant, the boy went along with this fact and sat for a whole hour, drifting off, his thoughts wandering in his imaginary world.

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