Doris Lessing “Under My Skin”

Doris Lessing likens memory to a shut door – the one that Alice desperately seeks to open though she is too small reach the doorknob. The access she has to her own past is unsure, arbitrary, selective. She describes as “creepy” the phenomenon that, “what I was told and what I remember were not the same.” She seemed to debate with herself, in the presence of a rapt audience at the British Council, the very nature of autobiography.

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Trailing Spouses… and Careers

Spouse trailing is the curse of the expatriate wife, but Catherine Gilson turned it into a blessing by transforming her volunteer experience in Paris into The Culture Club, her own tour group. She is a textbook example of how women square the sometimes vicious circle of moving, setting up a household and trying to establish themselves before moving on again – the subject of a career-development seminar last month organized by WICE and the American University of Paris.

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Conversation with Publisher John Calder

John Calder and Paris mix like Scottish malt whiskey and mountain spring water. Since the 1950s Calder, a veritable landmark to literary publishing, has focused on Paris as his literary plaque tournante. In fact, there is probably no single literary bookman still in the business that has done more to bring French authors into the English language. If it hadn’t been for Calder few anglophones in Europe would have been able to read the ground-breaking writers of the French nouveau roman. And his stable of writers is wildly impressive; he’s published over 4000 titles in forty years including the works of some 20 Nobel Prize winners, a fact he cringes at from modesty when it’s repeated in public. Artaud, Ionescu, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grille, Nathalie Saurraute, Claude Simon, Robert Pinget, many of the Surrealists…the list goes on. Continue reading “Conversation with Publisher John Calder”

Delacroix’s Moroccan Painted Memories

“If someday you have a few months to spare, come to Barbary…you will feel the precious and exceptional influence of the sun, which gives everything a piercing life.” Just over 160 years ago, Eugène Delacroix left a wan Paris winter for a six-month adventure in North Africa. While few of us can jump up and follow his footsteps, following his brush strokes is an excellent alternative. Delacroix in Morocco – a gathering of his painted mementos – is on exhibit until January 15 at the Institut du Monde Arabe.

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Nadar, World’s First Celebrity Photographer

As one of the earliest professional portrait photographers (and to this day one of the best), Felix Tournachon, known as Nadar, endowed his generation with perpetual faces, enabling us to look into the eyes of history. History currently looks back from the walls of the Musée d’Orsay, where nearly 100 Nadar portraits make up a picture gallery of the Second Empire.

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Remembering Normandy 1944

As May slips into June, the beaches and apple orchards of Normandy will play host to a kinder, gentler invasion than the Big One five decades ago that landed it a rock-solid place in the pages of world history. This time around, the tourists are coming, and the Normans are prepared for them: over 600 events are planned to commemorate the liberation of a war-ravaged Europe, which struck the shore like lightning on the morning of June 6, 1944.

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Dining out in Paris with the Lizard King

Jim Morrison ate his last meal at Le Beautreillis, a little restaurant near the Place de la Bastille in Paris.  What killed him remains murky but the authorities ruled out dinner, so cult followers have flocked to the place ever since.  A shrine it may be, but the restaurant serves up more than warmed-over memories.  The blini are terrific.  And so is the host, a genial Croatian named Verian.  He bought the place two years ago, serves honest Slav food, and says he doesn’t much care about the legend of “Jeem.”  But his black leather pants tell a different story.  So do the the luvmobile up the street and the heaps of Morrison memorabilia threatening to avalanche the restaurant’s side room.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. . .

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