Paris: A Literary Visit
These six Classics are perfect for the aspiring flâneuse or flaneur. Curzio Malaparte’s Diary of a Foreigner in Paris collects the Kaputt author’s 1947 journal of life in Paris after fourteen years away—complete with encounters with Albert Camus and Jean Cocteau. It’s a fascinating look into the mind of a man who, as Barry Gifford puts it, “moved back and forth politically and professionally like a ping pong ball.” Meanwhile, Paris Vagabond is native Frenchman Jean-Paul Clébert’s story of taking to the streets and joining the Resistance.
On the fiction side, Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories (selected by Michael Ondaatje) gathers the best of the frequent New Yorker contributor’s tales set in the city, where she lived for much of her life. You’ll meet expatriates and exiles, knowing children and straying saints—each one seeming unflaggingly real. Raymond Radiguet's Count d'Orgel's Ball, a favorite of André Gide and Yukio Mishima, describes a love triangle roiling in the milieu of the post–WWI elite. In the Café of Lost Youth, from Nobel Prize winner Patrick Modiano, uses multiple narrators to tell the story of the 1950s Paris underground: a shadowy circle of writers, criminals, drinkers, and drifters. And in Like Death, by nineteenth-century master Guy de Maupassant, the love affair between a sought-after painter and a politician’s wife unfurls slowly as her daughter comes of age.