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20 Paris Literature

Posted on August 14, 2006 by Susie Hollands

Words: Susie Hollands

Below is a list of essential Paris reading (the first section you should go out and find tomorrow, the second can wait for your next holiday) compiled after polling friends and clients. Enjoy!

Les ‘musts’

Henry Miller – Tropic of Cancer
I like this more for the portrait of Paris in a certain era than its portraits of women. Tropic of Cancer is a typical Miller book; scathing. It gets a lot of press because of the banned status but it lacks plot and is mostly anecdotes and philosophising. I still like it.

Edmund White – Le Flaneur
It turned my love of visiting Paris to a need to live here. A beautifully explored stroll through the city and the Parisian’s quirks.

Simone de Beauvoir – The Mandarins

A fascinating insider’s view of intellectual life in Paris after the Liberation. A true roman a clef (SdeB gives starring roles to Camus, Sartre and her lover Nelson Algren, writer of The Man with the Golden Arm).

Colette – start with Claudine series

And take it from there. Personally, for me, it has to be “Chéri” – first for its intimate take on the demi-monde, growing older, and a mature woman’s love for a younger man. Even spicier when one considers Colette’s scandalous relationship with her young stepson, Bertrand de Jouvenel.

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway lives on $5 a day (La Closerie des Lilas was a bit cheaper then) and romps through a series of encounters with eccentric characters. Paris always has and always will be a great place for odd balls.

The Sun King – Nancy Mitford
The best book I’ve read on life at Versailles under Louis XIV – and especially the fate of the women who, quite literally, were under him. Nancy Mitford is so the perfect person to have written this book being the Queen of the British snobbery – she dissects life at Court with gusto.

Anaïs Nin 
I began reading Anaïs Nin at just about the same age she started writing them. At that time it was hard to find copies of the uncensored diaries published after her death by her second husband Rupert Pole. Later an edition was released and I read along with many of Nin’s erotica novels, which for her time were explicit.

Back up options

Celine – Journey to the End of the Night

Albert Camus – The Stranger

Gustav Flaubert – Madame Bovary

Stendhal – The Red and the Black

Emile Zola – L’Assommoir

Alexandre Dumas – The Counte of Monte Cristo

Moliere – Tartuffe

Voltaire – Candide

Andre Breton – Nadja

Paul Gallico – Flowers for Mrs Harris

Glassco – Memoirs of Montparnasse

Lucinda Holdforth – True Pleasures: A Memoir Of Women In Paris

George Orwell – Down and Out in Paris and London