Reviews

Paris Tales

Michael Hayward

Paris Tales, edited and translated by Helen Constantine (Oxford University Press), is another study in the evocation of place: a collection of twenty-two stories by French and other Francophone writers inspired by specific Parisian locales. Many of the expected names appear: Zola, Guy de Maupassant, Colette, Balzac, Gérard de Nerval are all represented by some of their lesser-known pieces (Maupassant’s “Nightmare,” for example, vividly evokes the deserted streets of a Paris still illuminated by gaslight; Zola’s “Squares” brings back a time when those sacrosanct oases of grass, trees and flowers were still a novelty). Some less familiar (to me, at least) French writers also contribute, a few of them immigrants to France, and others who represent the present generation of Francophone writing. Constantine’s decision to select pieces that evoke particular locations in Paris helps confirm the view that Paris is a collection of many neighbourhoods, not just a single, monolithic urban site. Paris Tales is an excellent way to get to know a timeless city as seen through many different eyes; it is also as good an introduction as I can think of to an assortment of new French writers, all in fluid translation. Near the back of the book one finds a map of Paris with numbers that mark where each tale is situated, a map of the Paris metro and a not particularly inspired list of Further Reading. This collection could be tucked into a small day-pack equipped with Swiss army knife and corkscrew, and taken on a series of lazy à pied explorations of the far quartiers of Paris. The life of a flâneur comes naturally to some; for others there are books like this one to help with the training.

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The 19th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest

The writing contest whose name is almost as long as the entries! Deadline is May 20, 2024.

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The writing contest whose name is almost as long as the entries! Deadline is May 20, 2024.