Edgar Allan Poe (1809 to 1849, Boston, USA) has as good a claim to be the grandfather of the modern short story as anyone. He never set foot in France but his stories helped shaped and initiate the modern French short story, just like they did the Japanese and Filipino short story. He wrote lots of short stories. "The Purloined Letter", along with "The Murder in the Rue Morgue" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget" are set in Paris and helped created the modern detective story. The all focus on the adventures of a fictional French detective, C. Augusta Dupin, who Arthur Conan Doyle acknowledges as an inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, who used deductive reason and acute observation to solve crimes. The Paris of Poe is not that of Zola, Balzac, or Proust. It is the product of an incredibly rich imagination, a city of intrigue, decadence, elegance, wealth and corruption with sensual pleasures not to found in his Boston.
"The Purloined Letter" is one of Poe's longest stories. (I am slowly working my way through them.). As the story opens a police inspector friend of Dupin comes to visit him. He has a case he cannot solve, one that has the potential to bring him a huge reward. A letter in which a grand lady compromises her integrity has been stolen. The inspector thinks he knows who purloined it but inspite of exhaustive searches of his house and person he cannot find it. He offers Dupin his share of the reward if he can find it as his superiors are putting a lot of pressure on him to find if. Of course he does. How he does it is terribly clever.
The very real fun of this story is in hyper elegant prose of Poe and the imaginary Paris he created.
All the French master writers read, some devoured, Poe.
If you Google it, you can find this story online.
This is my third year as a participant in the Paris in July Reading Event hosted by Book Bath and Thyme for Tea. I find this a very interesting and creative event of the sort that helps build the book blog community. You will find lots of reading ideas on the host blogs.
I having a very good time reading set in Paris short stories. I hope shortly to read stories by Balzac and Zola.