Paris, a Day at the Races

Although no “Hemingway sat here” plaques adorn the grand-stands of the eight Paris racetracks, the American writer was a regular horseplayer when he lived here from 1921 to 1926. Since the French racing establishment has done little or nothing to attract tourism – not even one brochure at tourist information centers – racing is one of Paris’ best kept entertainment secrets.

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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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