Friday, November 1, 2013

'Parisians' by Graham Robb - A City and its People

Is a city shaped by its citizens or are the citizens shaped by their city? Imagine taking a time-machine trip into the past and dropping in on the jazz scene in 50s Paris or watching from a horse as Napoleon's vision of the city unfolds before you. Graham Robb takes us on a similar trip with his novel, Parisians.

Parisians by Graham Robb, pub. 2010

An Adventure History of Paris

From Napoleon's first romantic liaison in the big city, to Marie Antoinette's wrong turn, from Madame Zola to the Day of the Fox, and back to the jazz scene of Miles Davis and Juliette Greco of St. Germaine-des-Pres. We learn about the men and women who lived in Paris and helped shape its future. From the unprincipled Vidocq, the notorious head of Paris Intelligence, we learn the basics of spying and questionable police methods.

In a photo of Marville, an area of Paris, we see Baudelaire's childhood home and decades later, Jack Kerouac spends time in a cafe there, circa 1950s. The building has only changed slightly, while man passed by. War and occupation were miserable times for the native Parisians, as we learn how it felt and what one did to cope. Stories of Notre Dame and its mysteries, Marcel Proust and the new Metro, the adventures of Mitterand, and the 'amazing courage' of Charles De Gaulle.

Parisians, published in 2010, contains twenty stories from Napoleon's time up to and including the building of the Peripherique, a perimeter road that encircles Old Paris. A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Parisians also made Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and Winner of the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.

I recommend Parisians, if you like French history stirred with fiction. Two faves in this book: Lovers of St. Germain des Pres (about Miles Davis and Juliette Greco) and the Notre Dame Equation. The cover shown above is a print hardcopy.

Robb also wrote The Discovery of France, and biographies of Balzac,Victor Hugo and Rimbaud.


Notre Dame, Paris, in 2010, by DG Hudson


Do you like historical fiction? Interested in Paris' dark past? Do you know of Graham Robb, the author? (UK) Have you heard of the Inspector of questionable origins, Vidocq?
Please share in the comments and thanks for dropping by!


References: About the Author, Graham Robb Vidocq, first private detective Greco celebrates past affair with Miles Davis