Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests








Friday, July 19, 2019

The Neighbor- A Short Story by Goli Taraghi - 2006. - translated from Farsi by Azizeh Axadi - A Marvelous. story about a Family from Tehran adjusting to Life in Paris







 Works Read so for Paris in July 2019

  1. At the Existentialist Cafe:Freedom, Being and Apricot  Cocktails by Sarah Blackwell.  2016 - An exploration of the Parisian origins of French post World War Two Existentialism 
  2. Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson. 2017- an important addition to French Holocaust Literature
  3. Journey to the Edge of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine -1932
  4. Death on The Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine - 1936
  5. "Luc and his Father" - a set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant - 1982
  6. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - 2010
  7. Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert - 1952, translated 2016
  8. Cheri by Colette- 1920
  9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - 2011 - Hemingway’s first marriage 
  10. The Bath of Madame Mauriac- A Short Story by Andre de Mandiargues,first published in translation from the French by Albert Herzing, in The Paris Review, Issue 76,  a very weird delightful surrealist story
  11. The Neighbor- A Short Story by Goli Taraghi - 2006. - translated from Farsi by Azizeh Axadi - A Marvelous story about a Family from Tehran adjusting to Life in Paris


Today’s story by Goli Taraghi is about a family of Iranian exiles getting adjusted to life in Paris.  Just today CNN said  Iran and the USA are moving toward war.  Despicable American and European politicians rant about immigrants. As he began his first trip in office the current American president said in 
Paris that immigrants were destroying European culture.  The ignorance behind this is nearly unfathomable.  

I have been reading Goli Taraghi for years. I was very happy to discover Words Without Borders has online two of her stories dealing with Iranian exiles living in Paris.  Today I will talk briefly on one, “The Neighbor” and hopefully the other before Paris in July Is over.  If you have not yet read any of her stories either in Farsi or translation, you are in for a treat.  Her work reminds me a bit of another Parisian Exile, Mavis Gallant.

The narrator of “The Neighbor” has recently,along with her family left her ancestral home in Tehran to move to Paris to escape from political violence.  Used to comfort at home, the family lives a in cramped apartment.  She misses the warmth of the people back home.  She gets mixed messages from friends, some say the danger is exaggerated and others report cases of women being beheaded for going outside dressed in violation of tradition.  The biggest problem is she has a horrible neighbor woman living below them constantly complaining about the noise the family makes.  She even demands that thick carpet be installed to muffle sound.

As the story progresses we see the narrator adjusting to life in Paris. Most of all we see a transformation of her perception of the crazy neighbor.

For sure this story is worth reading. 

YouTube has several interesting interviews with Goli Taraghi 


Mel u





















Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Bath of Madame Mauriac- A Short Story by Andre de Mandiargues,first published in translation from the French by Albert Herzing, in The Paris Review, Issue 76, Fall, 1979












An Introduction to a Great Mid-Century Weird Fabulist by Edward Gauvin 




Works Read so for Paris in July 2019

  1. At the Existentialist Cafe:Freedom, Being and Apricot  Cocktails by Sarah Blackwell.  2016 - An exploration of the Parisian origins of French post World War Two Existentialism 
  2. Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson. 2017- an important addition to French Holocaust Literature
  3. Journey to the Edge of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine -1932
  4. Death on The Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine - 1936
  5. "Luc and his Father" - a set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant - 1982
  6. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - 2010
  7. Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert - 1952, translated 2016
  8. Cheri by Colette- 1920
  9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - 2011 - Hemingway’s first marriage 
  10. The Bath of Madame Mauriac- A Short Story by Andre de Mandiargues,first published in translation from the French by Albert Herzing, in The Paris Review, Issue 76,  a very weird delightful surrealist story

““I have always regarded sadomasochism as one of the best literary instruments, and one of the most powerful generators of emotion at a writer’s disposal, as in Balzac and Flaubert. Does it not have the added advantage of removing or, rather, confusing gender? It seems to me that the answer is yes, and that my greatest happiness, the proof of whether what I’ve written is successful, is when I no longer know who or what I am while writing. Man and woman at once, perhaps neither woman nor man — such is the pure androgyny writing allows me to attain, especially in the erotic tale.” Andre de Mandiargues

1909 - Paris

Travel through Europe with his good friend Henri Cartier-Bresson

He was a prolific writer very influenced by French Surrealism.

1991 - Paris

(For details see the very interesting article by Edward Gauvin linked above)

The Paris Review frequently places online
items from print issues.  (I susbscribe to an E mail that keeps me informed.) This week, almost as if in honor of Paris in July 2019, there is an interview with Simone de Beauvior, “Paris”, a poem by Baudelaire and The Bath of Madame Mauriac- A Short Story by Andre de Mandiargues, a new to me writer.  It turns out he was a highly regarded Award winning writer.  

The Bath of Madame Mauriac is totally strange, weird and wonderful.  Reading time is maybe three minutes.  Madame Mauriac, a famous opera singer, very obese, and Oh so famous, is bathed by nine orphan servant girls who cascade white mice over her naked body.  The occasion is very exotic, open to a few to watch rapture.  For sure this is French surrealism, de Mandiargues makes it very visual,sensual, deeply sexual in a rights of Bacchae tradition.

Here is a good sample:

“Mauriac has numerous friends who have access to her bathroom. Sometimes there is a crowd of courtesans, pressed back into the five corners of the room to allow the orphan girls to move around the tub. Mauriac is extremely obese, with very clear skin, so spotlessly maintained that there is not a single hair from the hairline of her flowing tresses to the tips of her toes, except for her eyelids, her eyebrows, and one small tuft, which she rather fancies, just below her left breast. The mice fall in a warm rain, scampering everywhere over her body, lashing her with their tails and pricking her with their little claws; then, tired of stirring, when they are waves of billowing fur at Mauriac’s sides, her beautiful hand nonchalantly Opens the hole of the drainpipe; then she will pull a cord to induce an additional downpour of fur.
Mauriac’s doctor, a diminutive Chinaman from Batignolles, assures her that, in the ancient East, baths of mice, dormice and rats were commonly used to stimulate the circulation of the blood among the great sedentary beauties of those days. Whether these benefits are real or imagined, it remains true that when the singer leaps forth, her skin flushed rose as if from the glacial pummelings of alpine waterfalls, her throat is crystalline, and from that moment until the moment that she appears on stage, a fata morgana, troubling the senses of the holy hermit from behind a heaven of tulle, the overwhelming frenzy of her voice and gestures is a mighty flood without stint.
Even the most passionate music-lovers, familiar with Thais, come away so transported by Mauriac’s trills that they find it impossible to believe that such a perfect nightingale could have taken wing, in effect, from that Auvergnat throat.”

I have found online another story by de Mandiargues and hope to post on it next week.



(If this story goes offline and you wish to read it, contact us.

Ambrosia Bousweau 












Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - 2011 -

Paris in July 2019 - Hosted by Thyme for Tea 

Works Read so for Paris in July 2019

  1. At the Existentialist Cafe:Freedom, Being and Apricot  Cocktails by Sarah Blackwell.  2016 - An exploration of the Parisian origins of French post World War Two Existentialism 
  2. Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson. 2017- an important addition to French Holocaust Literature
  3. Journey to the Edge of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine -1932
  4. Death on The Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine - 1936
  5. "Luc and his Father" - a set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant - 1982
  6. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - 2010
  7. Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert - 1952, translated 2016
  8. Cheri by Colette- 1920
  9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain - 2011 - Hemingway’s first marriage






The Paris Wife by Paula McLain was a New York Times best seller.  It is an imaginative recreation of the relationship of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, who would be one of four, Hadley Richardson.  When they meet Ernest is 20 and Hadley 28.  I admire some of Hemingway’s work but I have always found his public testosterone fired persona to be overcompensating so I was looking forward to seeing how McLain would present him.  

We see them meet, develop a relationship and against the advise of Hadley’s sister, marry.  It was Ernest’s dream to move to Paris to write.  We see them struggle to get by on her trust fund income of $2000.00 a year and his earnings as a journalist.  Both are  serious drinkers.  Ernest drinks to relax and Hadley joins him.  They meet other famous expat writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald with his wife Zelda, Gertrude Stein who seems like a mother figure to Ernest, Ford Madox Ford and Janes Joyce.  Paris in the early 1920s attracted many idol rich with literary pretensions. Ernest like to box with his male friends and is quoted as saying he does not trust people who don’t get drunk.

They go to the famous running of the bulls festival Pamplona Spain and to some bull fights.  Ernest talks about how beautiful this all was, I found it repulsive and stupid.

In the character depicted by McLain, I did not sense much literary genius.  I knew the relationship would fail and I did feel bad for Hadley.

I found the best part of The Paris wife for me was in the famous people we encounter.  I got bored with Hadley, as did Ernest.  I enjoyed hearing about the rest of Hadley’s life, she tells the story, and her happy thirty five year second marriage. She gives us a brief account of Ernest’s post divorce from her life which was interesting.


I acquired this book in Kindle format during a flash sale for $1.95, it is now priced at $11.95.

Obviously many loved this book.  I found the use of slang from the 1920s distracting, the almost fawning over the rich tiresome.  The wellsprings of Ernest’s best work are not at all illuminated. Hadley seems almost like a once sheltered girl having a fling with a bad boy, a macho drunk.


I cannot  endorse the purchase of this books to those I do not know.

It was fun to see McLain try to deal with young Hemingway.


Paula McLain was born in Fresno, California in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of various foster homes for the next fourteen years. When she aged out of the system, she supported herself by working as a nurses aid in a convalescent hospital, a pizza delivery girl, an auto-plant worker, a cocktail waitress–before discovering she could (and very much wanted to) write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996.

She is the author of The Paris Wife, a New York Times and international bestseller, which has been published in thirty-four languages. The recipient of fellowships from Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, the Cleveland Arts Prize, the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, she is also the author of two collections of poetry; a memoir, Like Family, Growing up in Other People’s Houses; and a first novel, A Ticket to Ride. She lives with her family in Cleveland.  From The website of Paula McLain




Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope - 1894






Sir Anthony Hope

February 8, 1863 - Lower Compton - UK





Educated as a barrister and a lawyer, he wrote 32 works of fiction.  Only two are still read, with The Prisoner of Zenda now by far the most still read.


YouTube has the 1979 movie starring Peter Sellers.  I thought it captured the comic spirit of the book.  Five 

Movies have been based on The Prisoner of Zenda.


1894 - The Prisoner of Zenda




1898 - Rupert of Hentzau

July 8, 1933 - Walton on the Hill, UK



I am not sure what motivated to read The Prisoner of Zenda.  Maybe I just wanted to read a classic that I knew would probably be a fun easy read, it was only 142 pages and the Kindle edition was free.  

The novel is set in the imaginary kingdom of Ruritania.  It is a political action mistaken identity fantasy work.  The novel 



centers on Rudolf Rassendyll.  From London he leaves his comfortable life there for the kingdom of Ruritania,a small country in central Europe.  It turns he looks like the twin brother of the King,Elphberg.  On the eve of his cornation the King is kidnapped and held as a prisoner.  The king’s evil brother Prince Rupert, hoping to steal the throne is behind the plot.  If the King does not show up to be cornated, his 

brother will declare him dead and take the throne.  After 


that he and his henchmen will make the King disappear.  The advisor to the King meets Rudolph and trains him to play the part of the King. 

There is a romance, The king’s intended bride falls for 

Rudolph. There are violent conflicts and lots of exciting plot twists.



This was a fun book.  After i finished it I discovered there is even a genre of literature called Ruritania fiction which means a work set in an imaginary kind of comic opera 

country.

I might read Rupert of Hentzau.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Cheri by Colette - 1920 - translated by Walter Ballenberger - 2014 - 142 pages





The Official Reading Life Paris in July Video



Works Read so for Paris in July 2019

  1. At the Existentialist Cafe:Freedom, Being and Apricot  Cocktails by Sarah Blackwell.  2016 - An exploration of the Parisian origins of French post World War Two Existentialism 
  2. Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson. 2017- an important addition to French Holocaust Literature
  3. Journey to the Edge of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine -1932
  4. Death on The Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine - 1936
  5. "Luc and his Father" - a set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant - 1982
  6. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - 2010
  7. Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert - 1952, translated 2016
  8. Cheri by Colette- 1920


I said this last year and am happy to say it again, if Paris is the City of Love than Colette is her High Priestess.  I also hope to say it again next year.  Colette (1873 to 1954, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette) wrote lots of short stories, novellas and a few novels, mostly set in The Belle Époque Era (1871 to 1914).  She was the first French woman writer to be given a state funeral.  Many draw their 
impression of Paris in the glory days from her most famous work, Gigi, or from the movies based upon it.  Much of her work focuses on slightly or more louche men, young and old, and the women of their world.   Colette worked on the stage in a period where preforming as an actress was often seen as part of the demimonde world.  Colette is also a revered GLBT figure for her sensitive and acute perceptive treatment of lesbian relationships as well as for her own very open sexuality.  Ok and she also loved cats!  I highly recommend The Secrets of the Flesh:  A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman, among the very best of literary biographies.

In Cheri we return to the world of Gigi, one populated with courtesans in their at least late forties living in mansions and still entertaining wealthy men who come to them for their extreme experience and for a feeling of through them being in touch with the high culture of older days.  Cheri is Fred Peloux, twenty five, the son of a once famous courtesan, Charlotte.  When we meet him he has been in a relationship with Leá for six years. Leá is forty nine, also a courtesan, friends with Cheri's mother.  They were in their younger days professional rivals for the men who sought out very expensive women, giving the, expensive gifts, mansions and such to mask the fact that they are prostitutes.  We know from works like Paris Vagabond, the novels of Celine and Zola that Paris was in this period full of cheap prostitutes so we know the clients of Leá and Charlotte seek more than sex.  Cheri is kind of a totally spoiled "boy toy" for Leá.  She has no big reaction when Cheri decides to marry a woman his age.  We also meet Desmond, who might be a same sex occasional lover of Cheri.

Part of the fun of this novel is the luxury of the world we find depicted.  
The conversations are marvelous and there is a lot of depth in the relationships.  We also wonder what are the men in their lives, wealthy all, seeking besides sex.  



Ambrosia Bousweau
Mel u









Saturday, July 13, 2019

Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clébert - 1953- translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith - 2016 with a Preface by Luc Sante








Works Read so for Paris in July 2019

  1. At the Existentialist Cafe:Freedom, Being and Apricot  Cocktails by Sarah Blackwell.  2016 - An exploration of the Parisian origins of French post World War Two Existentialism 
  2. Suzanne's Children: A Daring Rescue in Nazi Paris by Anne Nelson. 2017- an important addition to French Holocaust Literature
  3. Journey to the Edge of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine -1932
  4. Death on The Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Celine - 1936
  5. "Luc and his Father" - a set in Paris short story by Mavis Gallant - 1982
  6. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer - 2010
  7. Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert - 1952, translated 2016

Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clebert, was published in 1953 from notes
he took while walking through the poorest parts of the city for several years right after World War Two.  Living what he wrote about, he chronicles the poorest side of Paris.  Not the working families but near penniless people struggling on a day to day basis to figure out how to eat in the City of Light with no reliable income.  

“It was not a reportage but a personal investigation; it was me in the streets of Paris, rediscovering a city that was still as it had been during the Occupation, which is to say that in some ways it was still the pre-war city, that of the Surrealists and of [Pierre Mac Orlan’s concept] le fantastique social, which lived on. . . . It was a clandestine Paris that I came to know as a clandestine myself” Clebert in a 2009 interview talking about Vagabond Paris.


Many have as their vision of Paris  a city of beautiful architecture, fine dining, and intellectual hauteur.  This is the city of Colette’s Gigi, of Great fashion houses, the city  depicted in Flaubert’s Sentimental Education and the greatest English language set in Paris novel, The Ambassadors by Henry James.  A city of infinite delights.,the home of the Ritz.  The home of famous philosophers and artists. Over the years I have posted numerous times on books reflecting this vision.  Sometimes I read in Proust just to be taken there.

The Celine novels I read this month focus largely on the working poor, small shopkeepers struggling to survive.  To those depicted in Paris Vagabond these people are rich.  They have no hopes or plans. Both Celine and Clebert show a preoccupation with prostitutes, and not the kind depicted by Colette in Cheri living in mansions, but the most debased sort.  Prostitution was depicted in the short stories of Guy de Maupassant  and in Zola’s masterpiece Nana, among many others.  Flaubert is said to have had an encyclopedic knowledge of Parisian Brothels.  

Paris  Vagabond is not a novel.  It is a rambling account of the worst neighborhoods of Paris   In the late 1940s.  People in this side of Paris are sometimes there because they want to live where no one will judge them. Some come into this area as predators and voyeurs.  Looking for food is a big concern.  Most seem to live on bread and soup.  Clebert spent time among rag pickers and in a large Romany compound.  He visits cheap restaurants, pubs, and brothels.  The preoccupation with prostitutes got tiresome after a while.

I am glad I read Vagabond Paris.  It was probably much more shocking in 1952.  I found it to became  repetitious.  I was given a review copy of this book.  I cannot issue a general recommendation as it is sort of over and over the same thing.  His descriptions are very interesting.i wish he would have talked a bit about the role of the war in producing such poverty and about Holocaust survivors.

Here is a typical sample of his prose:

“Truth is stranger than fiction, we say. And this holds good in Paris as much as anywhere. The city is obviously a realm of the offbeat. What can you say about a clochard with a monocle pushing a wheelbarrow? Or a whore walking the street with a dog on a leash? Another soliciting in cock-of-the-rock-orange shorts? A bistro in Grenelle patronized by Russians and Arabs, an impossible combination which the owner handles by drawing a chalk line on the floor to keep the two groups apart? A café frequented exclusively by the deaf and dumb? A barge named Gérard de Nerval? A beautiful Negress who lives in the crate-return depository in Les Halles and fixes her face every hundred meters using her reflection in the gutter?”

JEAN-PAUL CLÉBERT (1926–2011) ran away from his Jesuit boarding school at the age of seventeen to join the French Resistance, serving undercover in a Montmartre brothel to gather intelligence on the patrons who were German soldiers. After the liberation of Paris he wandered through a catalog of odd jobs including boat painter, cook, newspaper seller, funeral director’s mute, and café proprietor. For many months he lived with the city’s down-and-outs, though without losing touch with some of Paris’s literary figures, notably Blaise Cendrars, and gathered the raw material for this book, first published in 1952 as Paris insolite. In 1956 he moved to Provence, where he remained for the rest of his life, writing many books, including published in 1961 and translated by Charles Duff as The Gypsies; and the encyclopedic Dictionnaire du Surréalisme (1996).

Mel u