Monday, 4 February 2002

The flâneur

Listening to:

Schumann, Fantasiestücke, Op. 12. Played by Martha Argerich.

Just read:

Edmund White, The flâneur.

I got this as a Christmas present, but because I was away from home at the time, I allowed myself to read it, in bare-faced defiance of the rules of the List.

Anyway, it’s a very elegant little book. It's the first in a series featuring writers on cities with which they are familiar. White's city is Paris, and he fills his book with interesting observations and stories about the city. Superficially, this is thus a travel book. There is no attempt at completeness in White's coverage however: he has written about what he's interested in. I think his views and opinions interesting, so that's fine by me.

A flâneur is a person who wanders city streets with no particular objective in mind. White describes doing this in Paris very well, and makes me think that I really should take advantage of its proximity to do some of this strolling myself. Some of The flâneur is about specific bits of the city, but other parts discuss French culture and history more generally. For example, White discusses how it is that the French literature scene doesn't really admit the specific sub-category “gay literature”. The authors and critics have decided to repudiate the labelling.