July 07, 2009

The Flâneur - Edmund White


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.

8 comments:

verity said...

That sounds fun. I've not been to Paris but I'd love to read that if I was going. I love to read books about or set in the places I visit (and where I live) - it's nice being able to have a real setting for one's imagination.

Paperback Reader said...

Virginia Woolf wrote about the concept of the flâneur too, I think in essay form.

I visited Paris a few years ago but only for a few days too; it's enough time to see and experience Paris but I would love to go back soon.

Nadia said...

sounds like an interesting read. I remember coming across that term when I was studying for my MA, but never really delving into anything further, aside from its meaning. this book sounds like something that I would mind reading, especially because I have always wanted to go to Paris and it should provide me with a nice little taste of it. I hope you have a fab time in Paris (I'm sure you will!) and are able to be a bit flaneurish when you are there! Cheers!!

Karen said...

Hi Verity - I'm exactly the same - I love to read books about all sorts of different places. In a way it is like being able to visit without actually going there!

Hi Paperback Reader - I will have to keep an eye out by the Woolf piece.

Hi Nadia - I had never heard of the term before picking up this book but I'm in love with it now! I'm not usually laid back enough to engage in flaneur behaviour but I will give it a go!

Iliana said...

I do that too - love to read books set in places I plan to visit. This book sounds lovely. I was just mentioning French Milk by Lucy Knisley - it's a travelouge but told via pictures and drawings - about Lucy's time in Paris.

Karen said...

Hi Iliana - I have just checked out Lucy's website and she sounds really funny - and her drawings are very clever, I will have to keep an eye out for French Milk. I also wanted to thank you for my gorgeous journal which arrived yesterday - thank you so much - I love it!

mattviews said...

This book has sit on my shelf for quite a while as well. Don't forget to stroll around the river where you will find a cluster of bookstores. Even if you just walk around aimlessly, Paris still charms! :)

Karen said...

Hi Matt - thanks for the tip!!