Monday, December 30, 2019

"The Book That Captured Mid-’70s Paris"

It sounds very urban.
From CityLab, December 20:

Georges Perec’s An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris documented the tumult, traffic, and street life of the French capital over three days in 1974.

Paris looms so large in the global cultural imagination—from Hugo to Hemingway, from Madeline to Moulin Rouge—that you don’t even need to be there to be looking at it.

At the Art Institute of Chicago, Gustave Caillebotte’s 1877 impressionist masterpiece “Paris Street; Rainy Day,” with its wet cobblestones, carriages, umbrellas, and one prominently featured electric lamp, functions as a kind of portal back to the City of Lights: That’s what Paris’s own mayor, Anne Hidalgo, found two years ago during the North American Climate Summit, when, thousands of miles from home, she almost inevitably found herself with a glass of wine and facing the Caillebotte’s Paris portrait. Wherever you go, there’s Paris, a shining metropolis full of romance and reverie.

Forty-five years ago this fall, the French writer Georges Perec spent three days on Place Saint-Sulpice, creating a portrait of a decidedly different Paris, one notable not for its monuments or cultural pedigree but for its simple, peopled everydayness. He sat in cafes and bars, noting the perambulations of his fellow Parisians, and catalogued their stuff: their cars, buses, dogs, kids, bags, newspapers, mail. Rather than celebrating Saint-Sulpice’s stately architecture or imposing church, his intent was to describe “that which is generally not taken note of, that which is not noticed, that which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.”

The result was An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris, first published in the French journal Cause Commune in 1975 and as a small book in 1982. (Marc Lowenthal’s English translation was released in 2010.) It’s a pamphlet-length memento of the capital at the end of “Les Trente Glorieuses”—the three optimistic decades of prosperity and growth immediately following World War II. Nearly half a century later, it’s a remarkable document of what’s since changed, and also of what hasn’t....MUCH MORE
The Caillebotte painting is Paris:

But oddly enough neither it nor the Perec photos appear in this story.
For the latter we go to Museumfatigue:
“Tens, hundreds of simultaneous actions, micro-events, each one of which
 necessitate postures, movement, specific expenditures of energy…”

Exhausting is right.
I think I'll stick with Jean Béraud, the most Parisian of all the painters of Paris, despite his being born in Russia:
The Absinthe Drinkers (1908)

"Old Paris is no more (the form of a city
Changes more quickly, alas! than the human heart)"
—Charles Baudelaire, Fleurs du Mal, 1857