Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris (Paperback)
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The New York Times bestseller: the secrets of the City of Light, revealed in the lives of the great, the near-great, and the forgotten—by the author of the acclaimed The Discovery of France.
This is the Paris you never knew. From the Revolution to the present, Graham Robb has distilled a series of astonishing true narratives, all stranger than fiction, of the lives of the great, the near-great, and the forgotten.
A young artillery lieutenant, strolling through the Palais-Royal, observes disapprovingly the courtesans plying their trade. A particular woman catches his eye; nature takes its course. Later that night Napoleon Bonaparte writes a meticulous account of his first sexual encounter. A well-dressed woman, fleeing the Louvre, takes a wrong turn and loses her way in the nameless streets of the Left Bank. For want of a map—there were no reliable ones at the time—Marie-Antoinette will go to the guillotine.
Baudelaire, the photographer Marville, Baron Haussmann, the real-life Mimi of La Boheme, Proust, Adolf Hitler touring the occupied capital in the company of his generals, Charles de Gaulle (who is suspected of having faked an assassination attempt in Notre Dame)—these and many more are Robb’s cast of characters, and the settings range from the quarries and catacombs beneath the streets to the grand monuments to the appalling suburbs ringing the city today. The result is a resonant, intimate history with the power of a great novel.
About the Author
Best-selling author Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He is an acclaimed historian and biographer, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has won the Whitbread Biography Prize and the Heinemann Award for Victor Hugo, as well as the Ondaatje Prize and Duff Cooper Prize for The Discovery of France. His book Parisians was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. He lives on the Anglo-Scottish border.
[Robb] has proved himself to be one of the more unusual and appealing historians currently striding the planet. In a better world his books would be best sellers everywhere....His book—argumentative, gallant, parked athwart oncoming historical traffic, as if on a dare—is as Parisian and as bracing as a freshly mixed Pernod and water.
— Dwight Garner
Robb, in employing the techniques of the novelist, animates his characters mainly for 'the pleasure of thinking about Paris.' That pleasure is also the reader's.
— Brenda Wineapple
Robb’s stylish and stylized tale of the town turns you into a sightseer, visiting the past, uncovering what time has hidden and observing anew what’s there. It’s a tantalizing tour. Robb wanders but is never lost.
With his profound knowledge of Paris . . . Robb reveals a city of not only lights but darkness, which, though discovered, remains unknowable and alluring.
A creative montage of how history, individuals, and geography intersected at key moments in Paris.
Ingenious...Marvelously entertaining, boundlessly energetic and original...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
A superior historical guidebook for the unhurried traveler, and altogether a book to savor.
Graham Robb's new book is so richly pleasurable that you feel it might emit a warm glow if you left it in a dark room. Essentially it is a collection of true stories, culled from Robb's insatiable historical reading and lit by his imagination. He has the passion of a naturalist displaying a wall of rare butterflies or a cabinet of exotic corals, but his specimens are all human and walked the streets of Paris at some point between the French revolution and now...[A] generous and humane book.
— John Carey