Friday, January 15, 2016

"The Other Paris" by Luc Sante (FSG)

ISBN: 978-0-374-29932-3 FSG

The Other Paris" by Luc Sante (FSG)

Of all the cities in the world, Paris has a mythical hold on me. I don't know why? Los Angeles and Tokyo are my two other favorite cities, but somehow Paris has captured my imagination, and this book by Luc Sante, pretty much describes my imaginary Paris as a factual place. I have been there at least six times in my life, and yet, it never disappoints, just gives me a thrill whenever I'm confined in Paris. Sante's "The Other Paris" pretty much describes my fascination, as there is only my imagination that is the French city, and then there is "real" Paris.

Sante uncovers a Paris that is exposed in certain works of literature, such as "Fantomas" and the film works by Louis Feuillade. This is Paris history as if it was written by The Situationists International and the Surrealists. Crime, vice, a little bit of decadence here and there - it is what I imagine being in Paris, and therefore, clearly is. 

The book often reads and looks like a school textbook, and one wonder if "The Other Paris" will serve that role in a classroom. It should be. As well as being, without a doubt, one of the great books in English on the great city of my imagination and therefore known as Paris. I also realize by reading this book that Paris always had a great deal of street violence with respect to murders and bombs. What happened a few months ago in the city of light, is common, when compared to the Paris of the 19th century.

Beautifully illustrated throughout the book with images collected by Sante, so unlike other "history" or "travel" books, this seems to be a very personal work.  And that I think is one of the key aspects of this work, is making a public space or city into a personal landscape.    Luc Sante did this and he did it remarkably well.   A classic book.  

- Tosh Berman

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