No one knows a city like the people who live there so who better to relate the history of Paris than its inhabitants through the ages Taking us from 1750 to the new millennium, Graham Robb s Parisians is at once a book to read from cover to cover, to lose yourself in, to dip in and out of at leisure, and a book to return to again and again rather like the city itself, in fact Quirky, amused and trs British Julian Barnes A collection of true stories, culled from Robb s insatiable historical reading and lit by his imagination So richly pleasurable that you feel it might emit a warm glow if you left it in a dark room John Carey, Book of the Week, Sunday Times This book is the sort of triumph that we have no right to expect to come from anyone in the steady way that Robb s masterly books come from him Philip Hensher, Daily Telegraph As Parisian and as bracing as a freshly mixed Pernod and water New York Times...
|Title||:||Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris (English Edition)|
|Format Type||:||Other Book|
|Publisher||:||Picador Auflage Reprints 2 April 2010|
|Number of Pages||:||587 Pages|
|File Size||:||862 KB|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris (English Edition) Reviews
Not easily readable, better to put down after a chapter and come back to, than stay with it. Some very interesting stories worth knowing about, recommended to friends of trivia and knowledge for its own sake. I will take it on the next trip to Pris definitely and have told some of the anecdotes to friends already...
The little secrets that hide behind the very frequented corners of the city of light... a book for those that crave a little spin on the city's history.
"For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust." -- Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 (NKJV)Parisians is the most unusual look at a major city that I have ever read. Graham Robb knows Paris well for someone who isn't a Parisian and builds a verbal picture of the city through describing layers of change during which many things don't really change all that much. You have to use your imagination and a good sense of French history to fully appreciate the book. If you have only a slight knowledge of both, you'll probably be a little puzzled by the book. If you are a regular traveler, you'll probably find yourself wanting to visit the locales that he describes over the last two centuries.Some of the book will seem gratuitous in terms of their shock value. I couldn't quite make up my mind about whether those parts could have been skipped.In other places, the story telling is fascinating, and the contrasts are portrayed with winning irony that will amuse and delight most readers who don't have a political ax to grind. In that regard, I was especially pleased with the following sections:- The Man Who Saved Paris- Lost- Restoration- Files of the Sûreté- Marville- Madame Zola- The Notre-Dame Equation- The Day of the Fox- Terminus: The North ColThe photographs in the book also add a lot of depth to the story-telling. Look at them closely!The book's subtitle is a little misleading. Few of these little tales have the kind of adventure element that you would expect to find in a thriller. They are more often adventures in terms of being a sharp break from what had gone on before.I would have liked a somewhat shorter book that omitted some of the less intriguing stories. I suspect that each reader will be drawn to a different subset of the tales. And that's good. This is my way of indicating that you may well like the book more or less than I did, and such differences would be natural for a book such as this one.Bon voyage!
Graham Robb is an Englishman who loves his France, and knows it well. I first read his whose title begs the question: But wasn't it always just there? It was Frenchman (and the other European nationalities that "discovered" all those other places on the globe. Or, so they claimed. Robb convinced me that France too, was also "discovered," in terms of a concept, as well as a nation, and if memory serves me correctly, I retain the factoid that less than half the inhabitants of "the Hexagon," (Metropolitan France) spoke French sometime in the early 19th century. Robb acquired his French erudition a number of ways, with a most appealing one being riding a bike around the countryside, every chance he got. Thus, when I saw this work I knew it was a "must" read, and found it even more impressive that "Discovery."It is a series of 20 vignettes, all, as the title would have it, concerning Parisians, or those who did some serious passing through. Robb's style varied among the vignettes, but one technique he used a few times I found impressive. Who is he talking about? He uses pronouns to tell the story, and drops a few hints as to the identity of the person along the way. In the first vignette, entitled "One Night at the Palais-Royal" which, regrettably, I have only known as a Metro stop, concerns Napoleon losing his virginity at the age of 18, thanks to some professional assistance. Only a couple pages before the end, when Robb mentioned his work on Corsica, did I suspect it was Napoleon. The one technique I thought was not working was the screenplay "Lovers of Saint-Germain-des-Prés." But I learned of Juliette Greco, a singer still with us at 87, her relationship with Miles Davis, and how she had been called "the muse of existentialism." The Café de Flore, and Hotel La Louisiane were scripted in, and resonated to one who has been accused of having his mouth stuffed full of Sartre (but only in my wild and crazy youth.)As my subject title indicates, it is a panoramic view of Paris, aptly conveyed by the cover: the famous, and the not so famous. "The Man Who Saved Paris" concerns the engineer, Charles-Axel Guillaumot, who in the late 1700's, resolved the subsidence problems in the city (some were rather dramatic) since the city was built, rather haphazardly, on old quarries and mines. There was the story of Vidocq, a criminal who became the head cop at the Surete, and still played both sides. Charles Marville was the first photographer of Paris, preceding the better known Eugene Atget by 30 years. Robb traces the photographic history of the square, Saint-Andres-des-Arts, not far from where Boul Mich hits the Seine. Baudelaire and Jack Kerouac were one-time residents. The author also tells the story of Henry Munger, who wrote "La Vie de Bohemie," and his muse, a 25 year old "flower girl." "The Notre-Dame Equation" was a Pychonesque romp, featuring an intriguing mixture of religious symbolism at Notre Dame cathedral, obscure alchemist tracks, and some very hard science from the Curies, and the atomic bomb. Whew!There are a couple of stories about the Nazi occupation, including the deportation of Jews through Drancy, and another on Hitler's one and only visit to France, before there was even a ceasefire. Did DeGaulle fake an assassination attempt on himself immediately after the Nazi occupation is one intriguing question raised in another story, and there seems to be no question that Mitterrand DID fake one against himself, in 1962, the subject of yet another story. The story of the soixante-huitards, the student revolt of 1968 is also deftly handled in another vignette. Literature also provides the basis for stories on Madame Zola and Marcel Proust. The latter once said that he did not write novels that could be read "between one (Metro) station and the next." A bit of British understatement, that. Then Robb describes how Metro riders would be so engrossed in his novels that they would miss their Metro stop. Could that have been possible in the pre-Twitter age?The most heartbreaking was the one that touched me personally, and is entitled "Sarko, Bouna, and Zyed." It concerns life in the "banlieue" the suburbs that ring Paris with dreadful high-rise where so many immigrants are "stored." The latter names in the title were immigrant kids, with their heads full of images of Zidane and Thierry Henry, coming home from soccer, taking a short-cut, chased by the police, and sought refuge in an electrical high-tension substation where they electrocuted themselves, setting off riots that rocked France. Sarko is Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of Interior, and later, for five years, the President of France. He went to the banlieue, and used THAT word, a word that I had learned only five years earlier. My daughter, age 15 at the time, in a boarding school at Sophia Antipolis, was attacked, along with some fellow students, in a "town v. gown" sort of affair. She later had to testify in Court concerning the incident. She told me on the phone that the perpetrators were the "racaille." A word I had to look up, and stored away, with a fair translation being "scum." The same explosive word Sarko used, and may have earned him the Presidency. Robb tells the story well.More lightheartedly, for a bicyclist, he ends with a story about "cols" (passes through the mountains or hills), and his efforts to have the Club of 100 Cols have its "Ethics, Reflection and Proposal Committee" recognize a "col" in Paris. All the stories come with an impressive bibliography, that Robb has mastered well. He has also written several biographies, on Balzac, Hugo, Mallarme, and Rimbaud that now appear must reads. 6-stars for this essential work for any Francophile.
The biographer of Hugo, Rimbaud, and Balzac, Graham Robb is about the best qualified English-language writer imaginable to present this history in snapshots of Paris which takes the form of nineteen vignettes, many of which are told in different styles, from the lives of important historical and literary personages. It starts with Napoleon's first visit to the city (to his lose his virginity with a prostitute before mobilizing with the army), and proceeds through characters as disparate as Marie Antoinette, the original of the Count of Monte Cristo, Vidocq, the Zolas, Jean-Paul Sartre, Charles de Gaulle, and even Hitler (an enthusiastic fan of the city for years before he visits the conquered metropolis for the first time). The stories are often elegantly told and usually surprising. It is true that some work less well than others (though one, written as a kind of closet screenplay, is pretty much a flop); and Robb relies too often near the beginning on the weary trick of withholding the identity of an important historical figure toward late in the story (which Paul Rudnick in the New York Times once called the "And that child grew up to become... Helen Hayes" gimmick). But most of the stories are quite graceful, with important undertold stories about the building and unbuilding of modern Paris, from the bolstering of the weakening tunnels under the city by means of the creation of the Catacombs in the late eighteenth century to Marville's photographic documentation of the neighborhoods about to be swept away by the grand avenues of Baron de Haussmann. And some are genuinely touching, such as the lovely little story of Madame Zola's forgiveness of her husband's philanderings. It's hard to imagine what kind of enjoyment anyone would take in this if he or she first didn't have some basic understanding of late 18th and 19th and 20th century French history, which Robb consistently assumes in his readers: although I did pretty well with everything up until 1968, the later chapters made reference to developments in very recent French history and Parisian planning of which I was pretty ignorant. (There's also no glossary for the plethora of French terms Robb uses, nor a map of the city, nor a final catalogue of characters, all of which would have been quite helpful.) This book works best for people who know France and French fairly well.
I bought this anticipation of a trip to Paris and ended up reading it after I returned. It was a much more compelling read than the synopsis suggests. Beautifully written, fascinating content from a whole range of eras in Paris history right up to the present. I loved it! Would read more by this author.
The author presents the history of Paris almost as a mystery take. Napoleon, the execution of Louis XVI, Paris underground and the Metro are mixed in with Zola and Houssman in surprising combinations. Untangling where the story is going and even who it is about is slowly unraveled in each chapter. I found it fascinating but sometimes a bit hard to follow. Well worth the effort, a good read for those who love Paris.
Quite a different type of history book. Each chapter is a different story. Be ready to be surprised by some of the stories. Most were interesting but a couple challenged my interest. Most chapters written like a historical novel adding conversations that would obviously not be known but I personally didn't mind that. It made the stories more interesting and real. Worth a read if you are very interested in the history of Paris.