Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction and Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel and post Colonial Asian Fiction, Yiddish Literature, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality historical novels are some of my Literary Interests





Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Reading Life Review - Paris in July Edition.




In July I was once again participated in one of my favorite book blog events, Paris in July.  Below is a list of the works I read for the event.   I did not get everything read I had in my plans but hopefully there is next year.  






1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky - must reading for Nemirovsky lovers




2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

4.  The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George

5.  "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme


6.  "Love Under the Roof" by Emile Zola


7.  "The Purse" by Honore de Balzac 




8.  Gertrude Stein and her Family by Kathleen Warren - a first rate literary biography

9.  "Czarist Parisian Emigres" by Joseph Roth 

10. Gigi by Collete  it gets no more Parisian than this.


11.  The Cat by Collete 


I read only two other novels, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, a Nobel Prize Winner and The-Black  Notebook by Patrick Mindano, also a laureate.  I did not post on The Black Notebook.  I also read a few short stories by Guy de Maupassant, looking for one I could include as part of my participation in Paris in July but none moved me enough to post upon.
I posted on a short story by Clarice Lispector, "One Less Day".  



I read two works of history on which I did not post.

1.  Congo:  The Epic History of a People by David Van Reybrouck.  A very well done book

2.  The King of Vodka The Story of Pyotr Smirnov and the Upheaval of an Empire  by Linda Himelstein.   an interesting book 

The works I most enjoyed were the two works by Collete and the one by Iréne Nemirovsky. 

I have no big reading plans for August, I hope to post on novels by two authors who have done Q and A Sessions on my blog, Karl Parkinson and Heather Fowler.  Both are first rate works.

Mel u



Ambrosia Bousweau



Friday, July 29, 2016

"Izzy's House". - A Short Story by Michael Alenyikov, the author of Ivan and Misha





In August of 2015 I was honored to publish a story by Michael Alenyikov, "Negative Reservations".



My Post on Ivan and Misha  November 29, 2011)

I first encountered the work of Michael Alenyikov when I read his wonderful collection of interrelated short stories Ivan and Misha.  I loved this work. .  Here are my opening remarks: 





" Ivan and Misha by Michael Alenyikov is an interrelated set of short stories about two fraternal twins, one bi-sexual and one gay, and their father, Lyov. The first story is set in Kiev (the largest city in the Ukraine) in Russia, where they were born.    In the brief prologue (set in the 1980s at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union) we learn that the wife of Lyov and mother of the boys died before they were six.   The father is a doctor.   We learn he only received one year of medical training and was sent out into the horrors of WWII in the Ukraine to remove limbs from soldiers,  without anesthetics.   They live in a large apartment complex in the style of the times.   The father keeps promising his sons a better life, a new mother, a new apartment, but nothing really happens until he moves the family to New York City and the stories start in the late 1990s"

"Izzy" is another wonderful work of art from Michael Alenyikov.  Michael works slowly and meticulously, as would an old world craftsman wanting only to produce perfection. His work feels in the grand European tradition of Proust,  Zweig, Balzac, and Mann.  My primary purpose is to let my readers know that they can read one of his short stories online.

"Izzy" is set in San Francisco.  I think it is in the mid-1970s to early eighties, in a time before a one bed room condo cost a million dollars and traffic was not dominated by Google buses.  Our lead character, Eddie, has been sent by his boyfriend, David, just completing medical school in Boston, to look for a place for the two of them to live in San Francisco.  David hoped to get on as a medical resident at a hospital there. This as at a time when being gay was regarding by most as something to be kept hidden.  People came to San Francisco to live in the open.  The plague of AIDS was lurking still, but there. 

David told Eddie to look up his friend Izzy when he gif there.  Izzy, who moved to San Francisco from Canada, will show him around the city.  The story opens with Izzy and David in bed.  One of the things being subtly done in "Izzy" is a celebration of the joy of being gay before AIDS, when you could have sex without fear of death, about a time passed probably forever.  

Michael does a fantastic job creating a sense of place, to letting us feel we are a young man from formal rigid Boston in what was once a magic city.  It is a great pleasure to follow him as he wanders the city.  The sex scenes, the polymorphic feel of the city, in the eyes of Eddie and Izzy, are very well done.   We go from bathhouses and no last name sex to the parks of the city to elegant restaurant.  We go to a funeral, we know it is an AIDS death but those there are not yet aware of the coming plague.  

The story takes us years into Eddie's future.  He goes through numerous moves and relationships, he breaks up with David.  He makes a good career but through it all we sense he wishes he was back in San Francisco.

Michael does a great job in developing his characters, the sex scenes are very well done.  
 

I strongly endorse the purchase of Ivan and Misha to all lovers of fine literature. 

I look forward to reading more of his work.


"Moments later, as if nothing had happened, we stood looking out the window at a sky filled with clouds both leaving and arriving at the same time; blue emerging from gray, one moment brash, the next wistful, tentative; and below us, wind steamrolled through the park, stirring a canopy of restless green leaves into a landscape of hills and valleys, as if a thick blanket covered the limbs of countless lovers wrestling unseen below."  From "Izzy"


MichaelAlenyikovMichael Alenyikov is the author of Ivan and Misha, which won the Northern California Book Award for Fiction and was a Finalist for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction; in 2013 he was awarded the Gina Berriault Award by San Francisco State University. His writings have appeared in The Georgia ReviewDescant (Pushcart nominee), The James White ReviewThe Catamaran Literary ReaderJonathanModern WordsNew York StoriesThe Gay and Lesbian Review, forthcoming in The Chicago Quarterly Review, and anthologized in several editions of Best Gay Stories (Lethe Press). He is a past MacDowell Fellow. Alenyikov is a native New Yorker, growing up in the three large outer boroughs (with a few years in L.A. wedged in between the Bronx and Brooklyn). He is a clinical psychologist (now disabled with myalgic encephalomyelitis), and has been a Boston cab driver, a bookstore clerk, and an interactive media writer and content developer. He has made San Francisco his home for the past 22 years. www.michaelalenyikov.com

Mel u

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Cat by Colette. (1933, translated by Antonia White)

The Cat, set in Paris, is the best book about a cat I have yet read.  Second best would be A Man, a Cat, and Two Women by Junichiro Tanazki, nearly as good.  Both focus on a wife's jealousy of her husband's love for a cat who was part of his life long before he met her.  


If Paris is the city of love, then Colette (Sidione-Gabreelle Colette 1873 to 1954) is her high priestess.  For many their image of Paris derives from memories of the movie, Gigi, made from her probably most famous work.  Living to almost eighty, she produced many volumes of writings of all sorts.  When she passed in 1954 she was given the first ever state funeral for a French woman.  


As The Cat begins a young couple are about to marry.  Colette does a marvelous job describing the passion of love, the infatuations of the honeymoon where neither can do wrong.  But in this marriage the wife has a rival, one who has been with her husband much longer than here, Sasa, a beautiful chartreuse cat.  Colette knows and deeply loves cats and it shows.  The wife demands to know who he loves more and she does something to the cat he cannot forgive. Besides a brief appearance  of his mother, an old servant, there are only three characters in the story, the man, the cat and the wife.

The Cat is not as famous as Gigi or Camille but for sure it is worth reading.  The estimated reading time is about ninety minutes.



So far for July in Paris I have read

1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky 

2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

4.  The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George

5.  "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme

6.  "Love Under the Roof" by Emile Zola

7.  "The Purse" by Honore de Balzac 

8.  Gertrude Stein and her Family by Kathleen Warren

9.  "Czarist Parisian Emigres" by Joseph Roth 

Mel u

Monday, July 25, 2016

"II Plce:r Dō Mō koe:r" a short story by Hortense Calisher (first published September 1, 1956, in The New Yorker)


A Story about a New York City College woman's semester in Paris, in 1956



"Certainly, Hortense Calisher’s stories take their place in that central line of narrative that runs from Henry James and William Dean Howells and Edith Wharton through Scott Fitzgerald and Hortense Calisher’s contemporary, the late John Cheever."  - John Hollander, from his Introduction to The Collected Stories of Hortense Calisher.



Hortense Calisher (1911 to 2009, born and died in New York City) published twenty books in her life, mostly novels but some memoirs also.  My knowledge of her work is limited to a few of her short stories I have so far read and posted upon.  The Collected Stories of Hortense Calisher, a world class literary treasure, will appeal to those who like the New York Stories of Edith Wharton and Henry James.  My quick research found no visits to Paris in her life history but in the educated affluent circles she lived in and wrote about many had been there.  Young women often spent a college term there to polish their learned in Americs French.   "

"II Plce:r Dō Mō koe:r" is about a young Female New York high school student  who is enrolled in a class in French being taught by a phonetics expert.  They are not initially taught grammar, word meaning, just how to make the sounds.  The instructor uses a phonetic alaphabet to represent the sounds, it is used in the story title.  Here is the class description:


"I was taught to speak French with tears. It was not I who wept, or the other girls in my high-school class, but the poet Verlaine—the one who wrote “II plœ:r dã mõ kœ:r.” Inside forty slack American mouths, he wept phonetically for almost a semester. During this time, we were not taught a word of French grammar or meaning—only the International Phonetic Alphabet, the sounds the symbols stood for, and Verlaine translated into them.

The story title is meant to be the International Phonetic Alphabet transcription of a line from Verlaine.b

In a few years, midterm in college, she goes to Paris to enroll in a language class.  Paris was still recovering from the war and such classes, which included room and some board, were common.  At first she is concerned the French, who she sees a snobbish, will laugh at her accent but the teacher tells her she speaks beautifully.  She does a tourist walk of the city but she cannot really understand the citizens.  

This is not a story with a big plot or dramatic turns.  Just an elegant account of one young woman's experience in Paris in the 1950s.




So far for July in Paris I have read

1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky 

2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

4.  The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George

5.  "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme

6.  "Love Under the Roof" by Emile Zola

7.  "The Purse" by Honore de Balzac 

8.  Favored Stranger:  Gertrude Stein and Family by Leslie Warren

9.  "Czarist Emigres" by Joseph Roth

Mel u 

 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

"The Czarist Emigres" by Joseph Roth (first published September 23, 1926, included in Hotel Days Wanderings Between the Wars, Edited And translated by Michael Hoffman, 2015)






My post also includes scenes from a movie perfect for Paris in July, Ninotchka.



Joseph Roth was born in Brody, now in the Ukraine, in 1894.  It was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

He left his beloved Vienna on January 30, 1933, the day Hitler became chancellor of Germany, moving to Paris.  Paris was his home for the remaining six years of his life.  He died in Paris May 27, 1939

His most famous work is The Radetzky March.  The Legend of the Holy Drinker, is, as far as i know, his only work of fiction set in Paris.  His novel The Hundred Days is set in the time of Napolean's brief escape but is nor centered in Paria.

For a time he was the best paid journalist in Europe.  Reading his journalism it is a pleasure and an honor to encounter such extreme intelligence and perceptivity.  His personal life can only be described as a "mess".  

I could not let Paris in July come to an end without posting on one of his articles about Paris.


In "The Czarist Emigres" Roth evokes the romantic figures of White Russians living in Paris, Grand Dukes driving taxis, counts working as waiters.  Roth knows that White Russians were almost all very anti-semetic.  Here are Roth's beautifully expressed thoughts

"We were armed with the old literary formula reflexively applied for every transgression and excess: “the Russian soul”. Europe was familiar with music-hall Cossacks, the operatic excesses of Russian peasant weddings, Russian singers and their balalaikas. It never understood (not even after the Russians turned up on our doorstep) how French romanciers—the most conservative in the world—and sentimental Dostoyevsky readers had deformed the Russian to a kitschy figure compounded of divinity and bestiality, alcohol and philosophy, samovar cosiness and the barren steppes of Asia. ....

The longer the emigration went on, the more our Russians resembled the notion we had of them. They flattered us by assimilating themselves to it. Their feeling of playing a part maybe soothed their misery. They bore it more easily once it was appreciated as literature. The Russian count as Paris cabbie takes his fares straight into a storybook. His fate itself may be ghastly. But it is at least literary. The anonymous life of the émigrés became a public production. And then they began to make an exhibition of themselves. Hundreds of them founded theatres, choirs, dance groups, balalaika orchestras."

A perfect movie to accompany this is Ninotchka, made in 1939.  Three Russian envoys have been send to Paris to sell some  Crown Jewels.  They get distracted by the opulence of capitalistic Paris and a special envoy is sent to follow up on the sale. The Grand Duchess who used to own them makes a legal claim on the jewels.  When Ninotchka, played to perfection by Greta Garbo arrives in Paris she is totally dedicated to Russia and abhors the decadence of Paris.  Slowly Paris seduces her.   Niniotchka is one of my favorite movies.  I must have seen it at least six times.  It is hilarious, poignant, the settings and clothes are marvelous.  It has all the Russian cliche figures Roth mentioned.  It premiered the year Roth died so I doubt he saw it.




Here are a few scene shots



      



     Greta researching some legal matters.

Do you have a favorite set in Paris movie?

Mel u

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Gigi by Colette (1944). - Copiously Illustrated Post



If Paris is the city of love, then Colette (Sidione-Gabreelle Colette 1873 to 1954) is her high priestess.  For many their image of Paris derives from memories of the movie, Gigi, made from her probably most famous work.  Living to almost eighty, she produced many volumes of writings of all sorts.  When she passed in 1954 she was given the first ever state funeral for a French woman.  


 Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman. A truly great biography, must reading for all Francophiles

Gigi is set in the demimonde world of early twentieth century Paris.  "The Demimonde World" refers not to straightforward prostitutes but to women supported by wealthy, often older, married men. Gigi is a girl of sixteen, two years younger than my youngest daughter, who is being trained by her two aunts, both made comfortable by a life in this world, to be a suitable companion for a Baron.  It is a world of glamour and sophistication.  The very real power of Gigi is in the conversations of the aunts with Gigi, their instructions.  When Gigi asks about marriage, she is told "women in our family do not marry".  Her mother is an actress, the theater as Colette knew very well, as closely tied to the demimonde world and was often seen as a place to exhibit your charms.  The role of the mother in the story is very interesting.

 (The hit movie is a visual treat but far different from the original)

Gigi has an admirer very interested in her. Gigi knows what she will soon be expected to do, her aunts are counting on her earnings.  The demimonde world was rife with gossip.  One of the aunts iclose friends had just overdosed on laudanum in an effort to win back Gigi's admiror who had gotten bored with her.  Gigi knows once she has slept with a man of the sort one finds in her world, imagine an aging born to money Maurice Chevalier or a younger Loius Jordan who plays Gigi first lover in the movie, he may begin to lose interest in her.  Thus her aunts coach her how to acquire valuable jewels from your admirors while seemingly having no interest in money matters.



Some will see the sexual pursuit of sixteen year old girls by fifty plus year old wealthy men as nearly crossing into pedeophilia.  

The ending is very interesting.  Gigi has learned her lessons well




So far for July in Paris I have read

1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky 

2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

4.  The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George

5.  "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme

6.  "Love Under the Roof" by Emile Zola

7.  "The Purse" by Honore de Balzac 

8.  Favored Stranger:  Gertrude Stein and Family by Leslie Warren



Mel u

Friday, July 22, 2016

"One Day Less" - A Short Story by Clarice Lispector (1968?)


From The Complete Short Stories of Clarice Lispector. (2015)

"I doubt that death will come. Death? Could it be that the days so long will end? That’s how I daydream, calm, still. Could it be that death is a ruse? A trick of life? Is it persecution? And that’s how it is"



"One Day Less" is one of the very last short stories of the great Clarice Lispector.  It is a story about a thirty year old woman, her parents passed and left her enough money to get by without working. She describes herself as "fat".  She is a virgin.  She has a maid who does the household duties. She has nothing really at all to do, her only interest in life, and that is low key, is that a man she recently met will ask her to tea.

One afternoon  her phone rings and it is an obviously elderly lady asking for "Flavia".  The woman does not believe it when told she has the wrong number.  She is told that this has been the woman's number for thirty years.  They engage in conversation and the caller ends up inviting her over to play cards.  The lady of the house says her father did not allow card playing.  The story ends.

This is a story about boredom, about what happens when you have no inner resources, nothing to do and all day to do it.  It is a very sad story.

Mel u

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Favored Strangers Gertrude Stein and Her Famiily by Linda Wagner-Martin(1995)


Gertrude Stein was born in Alleghaney, Pennsylvania, USA 1874, she died in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France in 1946

In 1903 she and her brothers moved to Paris.  France, mostly Paris, was to be her home for the rest of her life.

Her best known literary work was The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, 1933




To most, including me before I read Linda Wagner-Martin's excellent biography, Gertrude Stein is known as the host for decades of literary and artistic salons, held at her Paris homes and for her role as a cultural icon  in the LGBT culture for her long term relationship to Alice B. Toklas.  I am pretty sure they are, in the literary world, the most famous lesbian couple of all time.


          
          ( Stein on the left)

Stein was born into an affluent Jewish-American family.  Her father had extensive real estate holdings.  At one point, when the family lived in California, he was the director of The San Fransisco Street Car Lines.

(Try to imagine Gertrude and Alice hanging on a strap on a street car without smiling.) 

Upon the passing of both parents, Gertrude moved to Paris, along with her brother Michael, who managed the family trust, and her brother Leo with whom she lived from 1903 to 1914.


    Stein and her brothers, Michael and Leo.

Prior to moving to Paris Gertrude went to Radcliffe and then John Hopkins Medical school where she was a student of William James.  She faced significant predjudice  as women doctors were not quite yet accepted.  She did not graduate. It was there she first began to realize her sexual identity.  

From 1903 to 1914 Leo and Gsrtrude used income from the trust fund to buy works of upcoming artists.  Her taste in art was either brilliant or very lucky as she bought large amounts of early works by Picasso, Renoir and other artists who would become world class.  This wonderful art collection became the functional draw for her famous studios.  Greats of world literature like the Americans Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sherwood Anderson were  in regular attendance.  Wagner-Martin goes into lots of interesting detail about Gertrude's occasionally problematic relationship with Hemingway.  She also had a second monthly  salon focusing on the Paris art community.  



     A small portion of her art collection


In time the trust income of Gertrude declined and she partially supported herself by selling of paintings for many times more than she paid for them.  Assembled today, her collection would be worth billions of dollars just for the Picasso's.



     Portrait of Gertrude Stein by Pablo Picasso

Gertrude wrote a number of literary works and the author goes into a lot of detail about her financial dealings.  Much space is devoted to her relationship with Alice Tolkas, which lasted over thirty years.

During World War Two Gertrude and Alice left Paris for the countryside in what would be Vichy France. As a Jew and a homosexual Gertrude was at considerable risk from the Nazis.  The author suggests she survived through a personal friendship with a high ranking Vichy contact and her status as a famous American writer.  The account of the struggles to survive of Gertrude and Alice during the war years was very moving. 

Favored Strangers- Gertrude Stein and her Family is a very interesting well done literary biography.

I was given a copy by the publisher.






So far for July in Paris I have read

1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky 

2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

4.  The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George

5.  "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme

6.  "Love Under the Roof" by Emile Zola

7.  "The Purse" by Honore de Balzac 

Mel u

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"The Purse" - A Short Story by Honore de Balzac (1832, a component ofthe Comedie Humaine, translated by Clara Bell)



Question. Who do you think is the greatest literary chronicler of Paris? 

Balzac's Comedie Humaine is my biggest life time reading project, so far.  There are 41 novels, twenty novellas and twenty short stories.  So far I have completed 78 of the 91 works.  Balzac intended it to be a complete portrait of French life.   The works in the cycle include novels always listed in the top hundred of the world to works only those doing a read through would attempt.  Balzac loved Paris and portrayed the city in great detail.  Some say no city anywhere ever had a better chronicler than Balzac.  Balzac very much was concerned with economics, the cost of things,  



I hope to complete my read through by Paris in July 2017. 

I should note that reading the full Comedie  Hunaine is not a "crazy" project.  Many book bloggers I follow could complete it in three or four months.  I strongly endorse this as a life time project to all serious literary autodidacts.


 "The Purse, reading time around twenty minutes, is a very good short story, with all the typical, for better or not. elements of Balzac.  The lead character is a painter.  One day he takes a bad fall in his studio and is found and helped by an older lady and her much younger female companion.  He develops an acquaintance with them and is invited to their fourth floor apartment.  Balzac does his usual masterful job of describing their enviorment, their furniture and such.  He vividly describes both women.  He becomes a frequent visitor and discovers every night an elderly Baron comes to play cards with the older lady.  He always loses forty francs.  He begins to wonder if this is his way of paying for something.  He is troubled as he has fallen in love with the girl. Instant love is a common feature in Balzac.  Some very interesting and at first mysterious events occur but I will leave them untold.










So far for July in Paris I have read

1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky 

2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

4.  The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George

5.  "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme

6.  "Love Under the Roof" by Emile Zola

7.  "The Purse" by Honore de Balzac 

Mel u

"Love Under the Roof" - A Short Story From the Parisian Sketches of Emile Zola- Plus my Ideas on the best set in Paris Zola novels




So far for July in Paris I have read

1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky 

2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

4.  The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George

5.  "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme

I could not let Paris in July end with posting on Emile Zola, one of the greatest French writers.

This post Includes my suggestions as to the best set in Paris novels in the Les Rougon-Macquart Cycle.


Last year I completed a read of the twenty novels in Emile Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart Cycle.  It follows the lives of two interrelated families in France from 1855 to 1870.  Some of the works in the cycle are among the greatest of all French novels, others take a bit of will to complete.  As I read on, I found a very sentimental attitude toward virginal young women.  Zola's treatment of love before sex and marriage enters the picture is highly romantic.  I highly recommend reading the full cycle in publication order to all serious literary autodidacts.  

I could not participate in Paris in July without including a work set in Paris by Zola but  before I do That I want to list my favorite set in Paris novels in the Les Rougon-Macquart Cycle.

My Suggestions For Set in Paris Novels by Emile Zola

1.  Nana.  Centers on a Parisian prostitute.  A harshly realistic look at the demimonde world.  Considered  by all one of his very best works.

2.  The Dram Shop.  Set in the slums of Paris.  We learn about the upbringing of Nana.  This works focuses on the terrible impact of alcoholism,  in spite of how it sounds, this is a very funny novel. One of my favorites.

3.  The Big Store.  Set in a giant Paris department store.  Recently made into a movie.  Business details are very well done.

4.  The Belly  of Paris.  Centered on the food market.

"Love Upon the Roof" is very typical of Zola's stories that center on young "pure" women.  The central character is twenty and is on her own in Paris.  She works as a seamstress, as Zola tells us very common occupation for single women in Paris.  Everything is beautiful in the young woman's world, she is in love.  "Love Upon the Roof" can be read in under five minutes, great it is not but it illustrates a side of Zola's worldview.  It is part of a series of four stories known as The Parisian Sketches.

Mel u

Friday, July 15, 2016

"The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme (1943,






  
During Paris in July 2015 I read my first work by Marcel Aymé, his very famous short story, "The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls".  Earlier this year I read, but did not post upon, another wonderful short story from the same collection, "Sabine Wives".  His stories are not easy to classify, there are elements of Surralism and Science Fiction but over all I think most would see them as in the tradition of Magic Realism.  

"The Problem of Summer Time" is set in Paris in 1943, the city is occupied by the Germans.  Whatever his politics were, the narrator like everyone else in Paris keeps wishing time will speed forward and let these bad times be over.  One day the narrator wakes up and the Germans are gone.  It is 1959, his wife is 16 years older and he has also aged, he lives in a place he does not recognize and strangest of all he has a ten year old son and eight year old daughter he does not know anything about.  No one but him seems to notice anything odd or sense the missing years.   Soon he begins to seemingly travel back and forth between times.  He is not sure if this is real, it certainly is depicted as so, or a wish fulfillment based delusion.

This is a very well done story.  Anyone who has ever wished for something to be over can relate to the elegant narration.


Marcel Aymé (1902-67) was one of the great French writers of the twentieth century. Born in the Franche-Comté of Eastern France, he never lost touch with his rural origins, which influenced much of his work. Initially perceived as a man of the left, throughout his life Aymé espoused causes from across the political spectrum, for example apparently supporting Mussolini's colonialism in Africa whilst also campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty. He attracted much controversy for his writings for collaborationist magazines during the Second World War, and his defence of Nazi-sympathising friends including Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Robert Brasillach in the post-war years. Nevertheless Aymé retains an important place in French culture. He championed Serge Gainsbourg in his early career, writing the liner notes for his debut album Du chant à la une!. This collection of stories is particularly famous, and a dozen of his novels have been turned into films, among them the classics of French cinema La Traversée de ParisLa Vouivre and Uranus.  From Puskin Press Webpage



My posts so far for Paris in July, 2016

1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky 

2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.

4.  The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George

5.  "The Problem of Summer Time" by Marcel Ayme

There are a number of other stories in the Pushkin collection, I hope to once again post on Ayme during Paris in July 2017.

Mel us

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. (2015)



To me Paris is the capital of the reading life world.  The only small way I can show my solidarity with the People of France is through continuing sharing on my blog literary works reflecting the glory of France.


 
       The French Baker Cafe in SM Edsa Mall.  Not quite Paris but a nice place to relax

Today I will begin my post for Paris in July with an image I took at lunch.  It is from the Cafe de Paris in the French Baker at SM Edsa North Mall, one of the biggest malls in the world.  The croissants are very good as is the coffee. They offer lots of artisan breads and pastries.  



A few days ago it was suggested  I read The Little Paris Book Store by Nina George.  The lead character runs a book shop out of a converted barge anchored on the Seine.  The owner of the bookstore, Monsieur Purdu considers him self not just a book seller but a "literary apothecary".  Fifty years old, living with cats on the boat and still devastated from a gone bad romance of decades ago, he tries to match customers up with a book that will cure their spiritual ills.  I admit I was startled when he prescribed the book that inspired me to start my book blog, The Elegance of the Hedgehog to a customer.  The best part of the book for me as the prescription of books to customers.  Purdu has a very deep connection to literature and the reading life.

Purdu gets to know an author who wrote a best selling book but now is blocked and he and Purdu and a crazy Italian end up taking the barge on a mad trip through the water ways of France.  For many years Purdu has kept, unopened, a letter from his lost love and at last he wants to find out what happened to her. 

The aspects of The Little Paris Bookstore revolving around Purdu's work as a literary apothecary are delightful.  The rest of the plot is interesting and kept my attention mainly because of the strength of the lead character. 





So far for July in Paris I have read

1.  The Dogs and the Wolves by Iréne Nemirovsky 

2.  Mavis Gallant -  Two Set in Paris works, a short story and a note book entry

3.  Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter.


Born 1973 in Bielefeld, Germany, Nina George is a prize-winning and bestselling author (“Das Lavendelzimmer” – “The Little Paris Bookshop”) and freelance journalist since 1992, who has published 26 books (novels, mysteries and non-fiction) as well as over hundred short stories and more than 600 columns. George has worked as a cop reporter, columnist and managing editor for a wide range of publications, including Hamburger Abendblatt, Die Welt, Der Hamburger, “politik und kultur” as well as TV Movie and Federwelt. -official bio from Amazon

Mel u