Friday, September 27, 2013

Top ten books about Paris

Lisa Appignanesi is a prize-winning writer, novelist, broadcaster and cultural commentator. A Visiting Professor at King’s College London, she is former President of the campaigning writers association, English PEN, and Chair of London’s Freud Museum. Her books include Mad, Bad, and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors and the novel Paris Requiem.

One of her top ten books about Paris, as told to the Guardian:
Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

Along with Lost Illusions, this is one of my great favourites in Balzac's many-volumed and populous Human Comedy. Balzac's depiction of Restoration Paris from the vantage point of an aspiring innocent from the provinces shows it to be a ruthlessly inhuman capital of inequality: only vice and manipulative corruption triumph. Seduction, love, talent are all tools for climbing the greasy pole to success, and along with filthy lucre, a means of buying a foothold at the aristocratic summit. Balzac's detail allows us to smell the grimy boarding house, the Maison Vauquer on Rue Neuve-Saint-Geneviève, where his provincial law student, Rastignac, begins his Parisian odyssey. At the end, after old Goriot's funeral, Rastignac stands on the heights of the Père Lachaise Cemetery and launches his challenge to the city: "A nous deux maintenant." ("It's between us two now.")
Read about the other books on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Lisa Appignanesi's Mad, Bad, and Sad.

--Marshal Zeringue