Sunday, January 29, 2012

Paris Was Ours (global reading challenge #3)

last year in July, i visited Paris. it's a trip that still resonates, with all its moments and sights - and memories of earlier trips to this city. before i went there, i bought 2 books: "One Year in Paris" - the story of a woman who moved there for a year. and "Shakespeare and Company" by Sylvia Beach, who founded the famous bookshop and published Ulysses, and tells the shop's story in the book, and with it, her own life story.

fast forward to December: knowing about my trip, a friend mailed a book suggestion: "Paris was Ours", a collection of 32 essays on living in Paris. it's a book i read since December. now i finished its final essay, and collected the mail notes i wrote for it, to use the one or other for a short review. but looking at the notes, i felt: from format, they are the equivalent to the book. so here they are: 

the Paris book sounds beautiful. looking for it, i saw that there was just 1 left in stock, so i ordered it.

this morning brought a good surprise: the planned delivery of the Paris book was "28th December". yet today, during breakfast, the doorbell rang, and the postman was there, with a book parcel in his hand.

i read a first story from Paris: it was about a homeless family. what a start. but it connects to one of my own memories of Paris: leaving the Musee d’Orsay with all it’s richness and wonder, and then walking along the Seine – such a romantic place. until you start to notice the tents under the bridge, the rolled-up mattresses: huddled lives.

i opened the book at random again, and read the next story: it's from a cook. an own world, again, the restaurant world there, the rites of passage it holds for the people who work there, who cook in restaurants and in parts of the city they both couldn’t afford themselves. the term they have for it: to work “sur” Paris – on Paris, not in it.

the collection, so many good parts in it. yesterday i read the one about the writer who finds a place stay in the bookshop Shakespeare&Company. of course, it brought memories of my own visit to that bookshop(here's a photo+note). it’s a place that seems to be like a Paris inside Paris.

today, i read the story of a woman from Teheran who went to Paris in 1980 for what she thought was just a spring holiday stay with relatives there. but through the politics of that time, she can't go back home. which changes the perception of the city, of everything. this also connects to this paragraph from a previous story:

"I knew already that living in Paris would not be like visiting Paris, but I hadn't appreciated what that really meant. My previous trips to France had lasted days or weeks and had been marked by an epiphany at some museum or cathedral and a lot of feel-good time at sidewalk cafés or strolls in the long summer twilight. Vacation syndrome is dangerously seductive. You actually believe that this magical place you have come to allows you to be the contented, stress-free person you really are. There's a lot of vacation syndrome in Paris." 
"Becoming a Parisian", Walter Wells

after reading randomly at first, i now started at the start. this book - and this city - it has so many layers. and every story adds a new, unexpected one. i want it to last longer, and so try to read only one story a day.

while in Munich, i came to talk about the Paris book with a friend, who knows someone who is bring interviewed for a job that is in Paris. so we came to talk about the book, about living in a city, about the way our own identity is shaped by the place we live in - which directly connects to the language/place edition with the theme "another language, another place, another self". and i just looked, and yes - there also is a story included that is set in Paris, and a poem: Paris 1986.

the Paris book: it’s a read that takes its time. i finished the last stories last weekend, and want to blog about it in the next days. which will be an unexpected transition in the blog: from Munich to Paris. but it fits, this reflecting on cities and life in them. i took a book photo already, with the map of Paris in the background, and the cover of the brochure i was handed at the tourist info when i arrived at Gare St. Lazard: "Paris est a vous!": Paris is for you.

and as ending note, a quote from the friend who recommended the book: "life in the city. so much happens around us, unseen, unspoken, unknown. when you were in Paris, you were surrounded by these stories, passed them on the street, sat near them on the metro."

Reading Challenge Notes
this year, i am taking part in a global + an european reading challenge. the idea: to read books from each continent of the world / several countries of europe. i started the Paris book before i learned about that challenge, and it fits right in, as book #3. here the previous book notes:
Global Reading Challenge
- book 1: The Tigers's Wife (former Yugoslavia)
- book 2: Anar (Middle East)
- virtual bookshelf

1 comment:

Rachel Fenton said...

I'm definitely going to read the essays. I'll check out the reading challenge too. Really enjoyed your reading journey in its own right though.