My goal this year, as I have said in a previous post, is to read books by French-language writers who lived in Paris, and try to get a French point of view, rather than the view of a tourist or an ex-pat. It's hard to do; so many Americans and other non-French writers have loved Paris and still do, and so many people love to read these authors' books.
I've given my plan more thought now than I had done in my earlier post. Realistically, I can't possibly read all the books that meet my ambitious goals. However, here are some areas that I hope to explore, with links to some articles about the authors I would like to read:
- Oulipo, a literary association of experimental writers and mathematicians, founded in 1960, offers all sorts of possible reading projects! I have read a few works from the early days of Oulipo, and I wrote about Raymond Queneau's book and film Zazie dans le Metro (here). On the blog to date I have only mentioned the works of Oulipo writer Georges Perec, whom I hope to go back to. I would also like to learn more of what has been done by Oulipo writers recently. Michele Audin, a current Oulipo member, is one example.
- World War II in Paris fascinates many people. Rather than historical novels, I hope to find some first-hand books/articles about life in Paris at that dark time. A biography of resistance hero France Bloch Sarazin was written recently, but describes that era (blogged here). Poet Robert Desnos a surrealist who was in the Resistance, died in a concentration camp -- I don't know what I'll find by or about him. I started by reading Michelle Audin's historical novel One Hundred Twenty-one Days (published 2014), which covers the era of Paris during the war.
- Simone de Beauvoir is a writer whose books I would like to return to -- most of her life was spent in Paris, and it's often featured in her work. I might reread Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), or read her novel Inseparable, which was written in 1954 but first published in 2021.
|Simone de Beauvoir|
- Mystery novels written in French are intriguing. Currently, author Fred Vargas writes police procedurals about Commissaire Adamsberg. I have read three of them.
Also, I would like to read more of the Inspector Maigret books by Georges Simenon, written between 1931 and 1973. Almost all of them at least begin in Paris at the central police station.
- French cuisine is always my favorite. French home cooking has evolved over the years I've been cooking and eating French food. To see what's new, I might read some current French food magazines like Marie Claire/ Cuisine et Vins de France. https://www.marieclaire.fr/cuisine/
- Foreign immigrants to Paris have their own special experiences -- as I have mentioned, I would like to read novels about them. In my search, I especially learned about Faïza Guène, author of six novels about immigrant life in the Paris banlieus. The latest one was just published, and I have now read it and will post a review. A 1950s immigrant writer was Driss Chraïbi. He wrote Les boucs (1955), but I don't think I would like it.
- Hip adolescents have had their own French literature. Beloved books now and in the past fascinate me. I would like to find out what books French students are passionate about now. For this project -- I don't know how to begin! Two examples that were popular for a long time (which I've read before) are: Le Grand Meaulnes byAlain-Fournier, published shortly before the author was killed in the first month of World War I, and L'Écume des jours by Boris Vian (1947), which was highly popular for at least two generations.
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/whimsy-war-boris-vian-two-minds https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2007/dec/10/borisvianstillspittingfrom https://www.linternaute.fr/biographie/litterature/1775154-boris-vian-biographie-courte-dates-citations/
- Two recent novels in French that look interesting: The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter (2021) and The Anomaly by Hervé le Tellier (a best-seller in 2021).
- Paris Metro Tales, translated by Helen Constantine (2011) is a collection of French stories linked to various Metro stops, which I've started to read.
Blog post © 2022 mae sander
Photos from web.