Adam Biles is a writer and translator. His novella Grey Cats was a finalist for the Paris Literary Prize.
1. What initially inspired you to move here or visit?
The need to get away from London. The absurd notion that Brassai’s Paris, Miller’s Paris, Hemingway’s Paris, still existed.
2. Earliest Paris memory?
Rolling through the northern suburbs on the Eurostar and thinking, “What kind of grim dystopia have I come to?”. I hadn’t yet watched La Haine.
3. Best neighbourhood you’ve ever lived in?
My first flat in Paris overlooked the Canal de l’Ourcq, fifth floor. I shared a room with my brother. It could never have lasted. It didn’t.
4. What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in Paris?
For my 30th, with a group of close friends at Les Papilles. Great company, great food – and for someone who doesn’t handle the abundance of choice well, the set menu was a blessed relief. 5. Sexiest moment you’ve had in Paris?
If it was sufficiently unsexy that I could make it public without blushing, I’d be disappointed with myself. Anyway, pass.
6. What do you hate most about living in Paris?
Like every city, perhaps, it has a tendency of blunting compassion, making you hard. Also the fact that it’s an enormous metropolis pretending to be a small city. Sometimes I want to grab hold of Paris, shake it, and cry “The suburbs exist, get used to it!”
7. Who’s your favourite Parisian — be they living or dead, real or fictional?
Blaise Cendrars, a drinking, smoking, brawling, dog-loving, monument of a man! Hunt down a photo and look at his face. That man lived! Also happens to be one of the most overlooked of 20th century French writers. Yeah, it’s got to be Blaise…or Fantômas.
9. Right bank or left bank? And why?
Both banks have their charms. Why choose?
10. Favourite Caviste?
Ha! You flatter me, but no. Nicolas probably. Though I’m learning.
11. Where do you go to escape the city?
To escape the city without actually leaving the city, the café at La Mosquée de Paris is sublime.
12. Where are the best looking girls or boys in Paris and why?
You’re asking the wrong person here. I’d much rather be surrounded by interesting faces than good looking ones.
13. Where do you get your news?
Online mostly. My preference is for paper-based news but I don’t really have the money to indulge it.
15. Favourite shop?
I’m not much of a shopper so excuse the cliché when I say Shakespeare & Co. For the selection but also the welcome.
16. Who’s the most stylish Paris personality?
There’s an old lady who runs a hotel in the 5th. She’s in her nineties, chain-smokes through a cigarette holder, lost an eye in the rumpus of May ’68 and straddles the border between sanity and madness with genuine panache. She once told me that, in her youth, Notre Dame was as small as a bungalow, and she had gone off it a little now that it had “got all big.” I choose her.
17. What is your favourite film that is set in Paris?
I can only pick one? OK, Godard’s A bout de soufflé.
18. What about Paris most inspires you?
Its layers. It’s a gargantuan onion of a city waiting to be peeled.
19. What makes someone a Parisian?
Hating everything about the city and its inhabitants, but knowing you could never live anywhere else.
20. What’s your favourite French word? (Swear words allowed!)
Bouchon. Just the sound makes me smile.
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