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Paris Was Yesterday: 1925-1939 (Virago Modern Classics) Paperback – 4 Dec 2003
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If you'd like to feel that you are in Les Deux Magots, or Cafe Fleur, listening to Sartre or Cocteau; if you'd like to hear the gossip about the gendarmerie asking Marlene Dietrich to leave Paris because she had the audacity to wear trousers in public or if you'd like to meet James Joyce in The Shakespear & Company Book Store; if you'd like to attend one of Gertrude Stein's intellectual discussions & meet her companion, Alice B. Toklas, then this book is for you (Amazon.com)
Lively and witty...fascinating escapist entertainment (Leeds Guide)
* Witty, catty and entertaining, Paris Was Yesterday is an insider's guide to the arts scene in Paris between the warsSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
I chose this volume as I am interested in the pre-war years, particularly when Fascism was rearing its ugly head, and how the French dealt with it. It is ideal to dip into and read at leisure rather than reading all at once and I enjoyed it.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Ms. Flanner was in some ways uniquely qualified to observe life in Paris. Two of her best friends during this period were Sylvia Beach and Gertrude Stein. Flanner frequently included the comings and goings of her friends and their circles in her pieces, so there is not only a great deal about these two women, but also Hemingway, Joyce, and Picasso. Probably the only person of note who was significant during this period was Proust, who died before Flanner began her career as a foreign correspondent. The publication of various volumes of Proust's masterwork are considered to be significant events during Flanner's stay. Every change is observed down to the number of bananas in Josephine Baker's latest outrageous costume.
Another feature of this collection of writings are the obituaries. Flanner never met a member of the aristocracy who might have had a walk-on part in Remembrance of Things Past that she did not like. There are also accounts of the passing of some of the leading figures in French cultural society as well as an interesting farewell to Edith Wharton, whose reputation has improved markedly since the 30s. It would odd for anyone in this era to regard her friendship with Henry James with the same degree of importance now. More space would be devoted to the development of Wharton's own development as an artist than merely an appendage of a more famous figure (as is the case in Flanner's write up).
This volume highlight's Flanner's powers of observation, other than the Blum government's rise and fall, she misses little. Given the complexities of French politics and the reaction of the French upper crust to a president who was both Jewish and Socialist, it is possible that Flanner may have felt this melee was beyond her.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Paris in the 20s and 30s, but this is a book that requires a certain level of expertise to appreciate fully. One cannot appreciate how funny it is that Flanner is dragooned into cataloguing all of Gertrude Stein's pictures if one is not already somewhat knowledgeable about the various personalities that make up her narrative. Read "A Movable Feast" or one of James Mellow's biographies on Stein or Hemingway and then come back to Flanner's collection of articles.