On 15th August, I was interviewed about We’ll Never Have Paris (Repeater Books) for Fernando Augusto Pacheco’s programme, The Stack, on Monocle 24 Radio. The interview was broadcast two days later. You can listen to my segment here. Full programme below.
In his recently published and well-reviewed book, the Anglo-French writer turned editor Andrew Gallix explores a fascinating theme.
He quotes Oscar Wilde from The Picture of Dorian Grey: ‘When good Americans die, they move to Paris’.
Gallix’s collection of contributions from over 70 authors is entitled We’ll Never Have Paris. Published by Repeater in the US and Penguin Random House in the UK, his book seeks to explore the myths that surround this wonderfully attractive and romantic city. His thesis is that Paris can just as easily be disappointing as fulfilling.
It is a shame that among all the well-known contributors there is no one whose speciality is writing about restaurants, the phenomenon which Paris at the turn of the 19th century gave to the world, and a common reason why visitors to this website also visit The City of Light.
Beauvilliers, Lavenne and Veron et Baron were three of the most prestigious restaurants in the early 1800s in Paris. As well as the good food and wine they offered, they were also able to provide a further reason for the many British then in Paris to visit them: they offered a rare opportunity to watch the French at play.
Had I been asked to contribute, I am afraid that I would have had to end any paean of praise to Paris and its restaurants on a disappointed note. There are so many good places to eat, so many that evoke happy memories of my times in the city, but I am always at a loss to answer the following question: why are so many open only Monday to Friday and closed at the weekend when most tourists are there?…
. . . There is something for most tastes among the 82 contributions, edited by Andrew Gallix. From Nicholas Royle’s mini-thriller “Music for French Films” to the experimentalism of Joanna Walsh’s “The Hanged Man”, there are pieces about youth, politics, illness and romance. Some of the writers, from the UK, US and beyond, live or have lived in Paris. Almost all of them explore the myth of bohemian Paris — “an anglophone construct”, according to Gallix. . . . Readers might come to this book for its celebrated contributors — the novelists Will Self and Tom McCarthy among them — but they should stay for the efforts of its lesser-known lights. . . . Repeater has sensibly published this near 600-page volume as a paperback original that would fit comfortably in your bag as you amble along the boulevards. . . . Paris eludes our attempts to define it, but the range of styles and voices in this book suggests it will always capture writers’ imaginations.
. . . In a fine introduction, the book’s editor Andrew Gallix claims Paris as a product of the anglophone imagination, ‘the locus of an art-life merger. . . It is the place that you have to go to to become, be recognised as, and lead the life of a writer”. . . . Gallix claims that the city is a “sort of neutral meeting ground for writers and readers from across the Anglosphere”, which, though possibly true, is not necessarily or always an entirely good thing for the writing that comes out of it. (Gallix’s own short story, featuring a cruelly plausible intellectual called Sostène Zanzibar, is one of the best pieces in the book — funny, allusive, clever and terribly French). . . .