Paragraph (Taken from here):

You can watch Piaf performing ‘La Foule’ on YouTube, in a recording of a concert in the Netherlands in December 1962. It is completely mesmerising. A journalist who saw her live in 1939 described her as ‘part wounded animal, part passionate woman’. There is no hint that the song had been written more than two decades earlier, in another language, for other singers. Piaf delivers it as piercing confessional, and she its only narrator. As always, she wears a black dress, and while the introduction plays, she looks down and clicks her fingers. Then she suddenly flicks her head up and looks accusingly at the crowd, her white hands glued to the side of her body (Cocteau said she had hands like ‘a lizard in a ruin’). She looks much older and frailer than 47, but however disoriented she is pretending to be, she hardly sways at all and her gestures are deliberate. She sings with brutal force, wringing maximum vibrations from her rolling ‘Rs’ (‘entrrrrraînés parrrrr la foule’ – ‘carried along by the rushing crowd’). She may be accusing the crowd with her words, but with her body and voice, she is seducing them. When her last word is done, she continues the story with gestures, dancing now, as if doing a mad farandole with the crowd, her eyes half-closed and her feet tapping. The applause roars to a crescendo and the film cuts for a moment to rows of bourgeois Dutch men and women in smart evening dress palpably thrilled to be Piaf’s crowd for a night.

This paragraph is describing gestures of a woman (Edith piaf) while singing "LaFoule".

  1. In the bold part, I think the woman's body is compared with ruin.
  2. From the paragraph, it seems author trying to potray a mesmerising image of the opera singer, then why lizard and ruin are doing here? Does any positive connotation associated with them? (looks to me like an antique idiom :P)
  3. Is the author saying her hands looked more elegant ( or disgraceful) than her body or vice versa?

NOTE : In my country, comparing someone/something with the lizard is not good at all. we associate it with impurity.

  • Interpretation of literature is off-topic on this site.
    – TrevorD
    May 21, 2016 at 14:06
  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it relates to interpretation of literature.
    – TrevorD
    May 21, 2016 at 14:07
  • 1
    It's a treat to have a question that mentions Piaf and Cocteau.
    – TimR
    May 21, 2016 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


The lizard comparison implies that she held her hands motionless or very still. Cocteau's comparison is added as a parenthetic remark to corroborate the statement that her hands were "glued to the side of her body".

You can see from this n-gram that "still" is high on the list of qualities associated with lizards.


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