The Other Paris
A tour of the lost Paris of the last two centuries – poor, unvarnished and truly bohemian.
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Paris, the City of Light, the city of fine dining, seductive couture and intellectual hauteur, was until fairly recently always accompanied by its shadow: the city of the poor, the outcast, the criminal, the eccentric, the wilfully nonconforming. In The Other Paris, Luc Sante gives us a panoramic view of that second metropolis, whose traces are in the bricks and stones of the contemporary city, and in the culture of France itself. Richly illustrated with over three hundred images, The Other Paris reclaims the city from the modern bon vivants and speculators; scuttling through the knotted streets, through the whorehouses and dance halls, the knock-out shops and hobo shelters of the old city.
Sante loves the lower depths, cutting his teeth a couple of decades ago with Lowlife, a book about crime and prostitution in bygone Manhattan. Now comes a book it feels as if he was born to write, about the underbelly of Paris, an extraordinary and sometimes appalling submersion in nostalgie de la boue and French social problems, which takes on an added gravity in the wake of recent tragic events.
Sante is in a class by himself.
This brilliant, beautifully written essay is the finest book I have ever read about Paris. Ever. Thank you, Luc Sante.
Moving and discursive.
A wonderfully rich book, packed with information, lively in style, evoking the turbulence of a vanished time and city.
Nowadays, the old crowded, swarming, surly cities are at least half-forgotten. But in this great chronicle Luc Sante recalls when Paris was rougher, when the poor, the tough, the unregulated, the underworld, thrived there; maybe the city was also less rough, in that there was room for nearly everyone all the way down the social ladder. Hanging over The Other Paris is the contemporary curse of cities that perhaps hit Paris first, of cities that have become bland transnational stopping places for the privileged. Magisterial as ever, Sante returns us to the flavor, texture, savor, shouts, and clashes of the bygone city.
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