- Paperback: 264 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; First edition (April 18, 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0156709902
- ISBN-13: 978-0156709903
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Paris Was Yesterday, 1925-1939 Paperback – April 18, 1988
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About the Author
Janet Flanner (13 March, 1892 - 7 November, 1978) was an American writer and journalist who served as the Paris correspondent of The New Yorker magazine from 1925 until she retired in 1975. She wrote under the pen name Genet. She also published a single novel, The Cubical City, set in New York City.
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"Paris Was Yesterday: 1925-1939" is a deceptively simple book that begins in joyful silliness with an essay about Josephine Baker and ends on a frightened note as the Nazis slowly begin to dominate Europe.
Janet Flanner (1892-1978) was a lifelong columnist for The New Yorker, specializing in commentary on European politics and culture. She began writing her fortnightly "Letters from Paris" in October 1925 when she was in her twenties. Flanner's obituaries and acerbic eye-witness accounts of artists, writers, espionage agents, and criminals are often hilarious and bring to life the magnificent " annees folles" that followed World War One.
Her vignettes sparkle with mischief and sheer exuberance. Flanner's eyes were constantly focused on the world around her. For today's readers, it as though a flashlight is shining on forgotten attic treasures, illuminating the thoughts and ideas of both the Parisians and expats of the jazz age.
Serious articles about the death of scientist Marie Curie, a well-attended Paris concert by Marian Anderson, and the life of Edith Wharton, are included along with with whimsical book reviews, notes on art exhibitions, gossip about dashing local folks, American expats, Russian emigres, and other timely topics of that she thought would interest the readers of The New Yorker.
As early as 1933, Flanner notes: "War Talk. Among the upper-class Parisians, there is constant talk of fear of war. Daily, the journals print warnings," but largely dismisses it as interesting chatter. Her chirpy anecdotes of swindlers, dancers, and artists continue for another five years.
In 1938 she delights in the festive mood in Paris, celebrating the visit of England's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The royal visit was highlighted by a " military review at Versailles, during which 50,000 French soldiers passed before the King, [which] was of course the real point of the visit, despite all the lovely fuss and feathers...[the army] looked disciplined, virile and well-tailored, and it put on a stunning show [including] the colonial troops--the bloomered Zouaves, the horn-blowing Senegalese, the Moroccan mounted regiments, with their chechias and silver stirrups."
From then on, Flanner's tone slowly changes. Her eye-witness accounts about the mood and news of the day gradually becomes sober and thoughtful.
The volume ends: "The Allies have gone to war in 1939 for a Poland already in ruins and so distant that France and England could not fire a shot in Warsaw's defense...As a matter of fact, it is really a commonplace war, since it is simply a fight for liberty. It is only because of its potential size that it may, alas, prove to be civilization's ruin."
"Paris Was Yesterday" is an excellent, thought-provoking eye-witness account of the years between the wars. Definitely worth reading.
Also, I suspect that Ms. Flanner was a delightful person, but her articles seem somewhat preoccuped with those who were recently "departed" or had been for some time and were being then remembered by Parisians. At times it is a little on the morose side. Although I don't recall her mentioning this, at times she, too, seems slightly overwhelmed with "Lacrimae Mundi" (the tears of the world).
All in all, it seems that even in her days (1925-1939) Ms. Flanner was telling her readers that "you're too late" ... Paris was YESTERDAY.
What a fascinating life she lived, and the people she met! She was also the dignified presence sitting between Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer during their infamous appearance on the Dick Cavett show.
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