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Curious Minds - 2017 reading list

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

what we talked about when we talked about Paris at the Hot Docs morning sessions

Hello Monday morning people! As requested, here is a list of the people & places I mention during my Hotdocs' Curious Minds series, "Learning From Paris"... in case you want to look up more information or visit the specific locations when you're next in Paris! I'll be updating this list as we go through the series. At the very end of this post, you'll find a reading list of books I love.

Sept 18: The Bones of Paris - Anne of Kiev, queen of France, stood at her palace window in 1152. She was married to King Henri I. We also discussed the Romans & the Parisii, Saint-Denis, Sainte-Genevieve, and Maurice de Sully, Bishop of Paris--the man who "dreamed" of Notre Dame. 

Sept 25: The Food of Paris - We looked at work from photographer Willy Ronis. Louis VI ("King Louis the Fat") was the instigator who moved the market to its location in Les Halles, in 1136. Victor Baltard was the architect of the great 19th-century buildings for Les Halles. I mentioned a few restaurants, including Chartier(a Belle Epoque "bouillon" restaurant), the gorgeous high-end Train Bleu, opened in 1901, located inside the Gare de Lyon, and also the Brasserie Lipp on the Left Bank. One of my favourite open air food markets in Paris is on Thurs & Sun mornings at metro Bastille & stretches up the boulevard Richard-Lenoir. And this is a still-life by painter Anne Vallayer-Coster:

Oct 2: The Words of Paris - We talked about the 1671 literary salon of Mme de Lafayette, who lived on the rue de Vaugirard facing the entrance to the Jardins de Luxembourg. Her salon included La Fontaine (of the Fables), La Rochefoucauld, and Mme de Sevigne (sometimes spelled "Sevigny".) Then we moved to the Cafe Procope, opened in the 1680s. We visited the coffeehouse in 1849, and eavesdropped on literary lions George Sand, Victor Hugo, Honore de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, and Gustave Flaubert. We also popped by the Hugo museum, in Place des Vosges (where you can visit George Sand's cigarette lighter, in the souvenir table Hugo had made.) And we discussed the original Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, opened by Sylvia Beach. We discussed the year 1922 - when Beach published James Joyce's Ulysses. 1922 is also the year when Ernest Hemingway had to rewrite his entire short story collection. We talked about literary Americans Janet Flanner (writer for the New Yorker), Gertrude Stein & her partner Alice B. Toklas, and F. Scott Fitzgerald - all friends of Beach. We also talked about literary France - the Maison des Amis du Livre, run by Adrienne Monnier just across rue de l'Odeon from Beach's bookshop. 

Oct 16: The Art of Paris - We talked about 7 works of art: "Le dessert de gauffres" c.1630 by Lubin Baugin (in the Louvre); "Self-portrait" 1789 by Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun (in the Louvre); "The Raft of the Medusa" 1818 by Theodore Gericault (in the Louvre); "Gare Saint-Lazare" 1877 by Claude Monet (in the Orsay); "La Danse au Moulin-Rouge" 1895 by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (in the Orsay); "Guernica" 1937 by Pablo Picasso (in Madrid, though it was painted in Picasso's studio in Paris, on the rue des Grands Augustins; we saw several photographs taken by Dora Maar); and "Stravinsky Fountain" 1983 by Niki de Saint-Phalle & Jean Tinguely (located beside the Pompidou.) We also mentioned two paintings by Gustave Caillebotte (Rainy Day in Paris & The Floor-Planers - the latter is in the Orsay, right beside the Monet train station.) And we discussed several people painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, including Raphael Padilla, Jane Avril, and La Goulue. 

Oct 23: The War of Paris - We focused on two different periods, beginning in the 19th Century with a series of revolts in Paris...1830, 1848, and finally the 1870 Siege of Paris (where the city was surrounded by the Prussians & citizens were reduced to eating rats!) We took a look at Delacroix's famous painting, LIBERTY LEADING THE PEOPLE. Some of the important figures of the era include Louise Michel, the "Red She-Wolf" of Montmartre, and the writer George Sand. The Paris Commune of 1871 didn't last long, but its societal impact lingered into the 20th century. And it's fascinating to look at the burst of science, art, and inspiration which followed: after the bloodthirsty Commune, Paris glowed with life, World Fairs, and of course, the magnificent paintings of the Impressionists! In the second half of our talk, we discussed the 1960s. First, we looked at the Algerian war and the terrible repression of innocent Paris demonstrators, Oct 17, 1961. Police murdered, beat, and drowned protestors, resulting in at least 200 deaths. About 11,000 people were arrested in Paris that day, just for demonstrating. Writer Simone de Beauvoir was one of the few to voice her horror at the police action. The Paris Chief of Police at the time was Maurice Papon, who later stood trial for his collaboration in the Holocaust. We mentioned novels by Albert Camus, a Frenchman born in Algeria, & by Kamel Daoud, an Algerian journalist who writes in French. And then we looked at the famous student riots of May, 1968. The protests that shook the core of Paris have had continuing impact on politics since that famous moment when students, workers, and philosophers of Paris all took to the streets...

Oct 30: The Now of Paris - We went on a stroll from my local cafe in the 18th, up near the Puces de Saint-Ouen, and wandered down into the heart of the city. En route, we stopped to talk about my local Iranian bookshop (and the fascinating Parisian playwright Yasmina Reza), the refugee crisis, the plague of airbnb, and the city's wonderful markets. We paused respectfully in PLACE DE LA REPUBLIQUE and put the terrorist threat of the past few years into perspective of Parisian history. We walked through the Marais, where we admired the wonderful 17th-century buildings. I talked about King Henri IV and his financial advistor, the Duc de Sully (whose mansion, the Hotel de Sully, is still magnificent--visit the bookshop there if you can read French!) I quoted Georges Simenon, the prolific mystery writer who had an affair with the brilliant American performer & Resistance spy, Josephine Baker. We finished up on ILE DE LA CITE, at the Cafe des Deux Palais. I like to stop for coffee there at the counter, gazing out at Anne of Kiev's old medieval palace, and thinking of all the Parisians who have walked past here, over the centuries...

READING LIST (books I like, or have mentioned in this series)

A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas - Gertrude Stein

The Selected Letters of Mme de Sevigne 

La Princesse de Cleves - Mme de Lafayette

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

if you're interested in Alexandre Dumas & his father, read the excellent biography The Black Count by Tom Reiss.

Cheri - Colette (really, anything by Colette, but this is her masterpiece)

Paris Was Yesterday (memoir/writings from the New Yorker) - Janet Flanner

and... for reliable recipes & cooking that really is inspired by Parisian market produce, check out David Lebovitz's food site/blog


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