Gertrude Stein said, “Paris was where the 20th century was.” With writers including Hemmingway, Joyce, Anaïs Nin, and more all scribbling in bars on the left bank, it’s hard to disagree. In the here and now, we’re still in love with the myth those artists created: the romance, the mystery, the hustle and bustle of an international community against an unmistakably Parisian backdrop of bistros and boulevards. (Pause here for swoon.) While writers don’t always agree on the essence of the city — for Nin it’s erotic, for White it’s melancholy, for Rilke it’s vital, for Eugenides it’s infused with nostalgia — drawn together, their words, below, create a patchwork love letter to the city of lights. Apologies if they make you want to pack your bags; we're not paying for your plane ticket.
“It’s not so beautiful, you know. Of course, it is beautiful…But it’s the life of Paris; that’s the thing. Ah, there’s no city like Paris for gaiety, movement, excitement…”
[…] Little Chandler looked at his friend enviously.
“Everything in Paris is gay,” said Ignatius Gallaher. “They believe in enjoying life — and don’t you think they’re right? If you want to enjoy yourself properly you must go to Paris. […].” Little Chandler took four or five sips from his glass.
“Tell me,” he said, “is it true that Paris is so…immoral as they say?”
Ignatius Gallaher made a Catholic gesture with his right arm.
“Every place is immoral,” he said.
4. Anaïs Nin — Little Birds
5. Edmund White — The Flaneur
6. Julian Green — Paris
7. Jeffrey Eugenides — The Marriage Plot
8. Italo Calvino — Hermit in Paris: Autobiographical Writings