As we continue to prepare for our trip overseas (less than 2 months to go now!) I am seeking out books about the places we are visiting. I have actually had The Flâneur on my shelves for a while now but it jumped out at me last night when I was looking for something to help get me focused on our trip. In one respect I am a little sad about our time in Paris as we only have 3 nights there and all that I am reading and taking in is making me want to cancel every other part of our trip and just stay there for the whole time! However, I also know I am very lucky to be going there at all so I will take my 3 nights and be happy!
In The Flâneur: A Stroll Through The Paradoxes of Paris, Edmund White takes us to his "secret" Paris - the parts of the city and that stories from its history that may not always be mentioned in mainstream guidebooks.
White introduces the concept of the flâneur as "a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the streets he walks". With only 3 nights in Paris I am not sure how much "flâneur" behaviour I will be able to indulge in - but I would like to think I could give it a try!
Now my knowledge of French history, people and language is very limited, some would say non existent (especially regarding the language) so I am sure that some of what White writes about goes above and beyond me. Having said that though I really enjoyed this book and the journey through Paris that it takes you on. White has divided the book into 6 chapters each one focusing on an element of the city and its history that White has found significant to his experience of Paris and its people. There is a chapter on the multicultural society of the city, gay Paris, Jewish Paris, the royalist tradition and the writers and artists that have called Paris home. There is also a really comprehensive section at the end of the book suggesting further reading in each of these areas.