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The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris (Writer and the City)

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,215 Ratings  ·  124 Reviews
Bloomsbury is proud to announce the first title in an occasional series in which some of the world's finest novelists reveal the secrets of the city they know best. These beautifully produced, pocket-sized books will provide exactly what is missing in ordinary travel guides: insights and imagination that lead the reader into those parts of a city no other guide can reach.

Hardcover, 211 pages
Published March 21st 2001 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2001)
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Les Misérables by Victor HugoA Moveable Feast by Ernest HemingwayA Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensMy Life in France by Julia ChildThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Books About Paris
38th out of 455 books — 451 voters
The Flaneur by Edmund WhiteParis by Kati MartonParis Letters by Janice MacleodA Moveable Feast by Ernest HemingwayThe Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
Parisian Memoirs
1st out of 16 books — 12 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,692)
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Ian Gabogovinanana
The Flaneur

I first became familiar with the word “Flaneur” when a collection of Walter Benjamin’s writings called “The Arcade Projects” was published in 1999.

It included a 1929 review called “The Return of the Flâneur”.

In it, Benjamin speculates on the significance of the “Flaneur”, a French word meaning “stroller” or “saunterer”.

It describes someone who walks the street, apparently idly, not intending to simply get from point A to point B, but seeking more to observe and experience the street a
Eddie Watkins
Jan 15, 2009 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it
Read this little book yesterday on the bus as I was on my way to and from NY to see the Morandi show at the Met and the Eggleston show at the Whitney. Even as I was nodding off on the way back, with the Chipmunks movie loudly broadcast throughout the bus, I couldn't put it down.

The flaneur premise was an ingenious way for White to write anything he felt like about Paris. As I was reading it I could envision a whole flaneur series of books of not only every city in the world but any thing any per
Michael William West
Interesting enough, a few curious essays mixed in with standard 'Paris' filler (the Commune, Dreyfus, Josephine Baker etc. etc.) that anyone who's been in Paris more than a week will hear about soon enough. Although it's insightful on the behaviour and social structure of the Parisians, Edmund White can't resist filtering everything through his political perspective: a mild centre-left view typical of his generation with apologist tones for the accumulation of personal wealth. This gets tiresome ...more
Oct 17, 2008 Alan rated it really liked it
Ahhh. So nice to read a master of the sentence. My only problem with this is that it's unifying principle, flaneury, doesn't really unify it. I couldn't put it down though. He's a master of the essay. Also, it purports to be a book about a city (Paris). It is more a book of spotty, thematically organized artistic and sexual histories. Graceful and hilarious. Anecdotal, well-researched, a dessert book.
Jan 11, 2011 Ellie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, french
My dream has always been to be a flanneur in Paris and through this book I have been, several times or more. No joking: I love to walk the streets of the city (as a New Yorker, I guess I'm more Alfred Kazin but as a dreamer-who HAS been to Paris-I'm a flanneur and I live in the 1920's on the Left Bank. Edmund White is a lush writer and his style matches his subject here perfectly. If you love Paris, at least in your dreams, you'll always have it here.
Jul 18, 2011 Naftoli rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fun
Wow, I just finished this book yesterday. Roslyn Raney gave it to me as a gift in 2008,I was not interested in reading it then but happened to pull it off my bookshelf two weeks ago and it has been a fun ride. I have never been to Paris but this book gave me a birds's eye view from so many perspectives as the flaneur is apparently a person who strolls about observing the intricacies of public life. The author, Edmund White, is an American who lived in Paris for many years. He describes Paris bas ...more
Aug 24, 2012 Alexis rated it really liked it
I started this book about 6 months ago and enjoyed the rolling erudition of the narrative. But when I set it down I didn't rush to find it and finish it. When I pulled it from a stack yesterday I knew I had to read it all and get a sense of the arc. The writing is twice as good as I remembered it and the gossip about arts in Paris is unbeatable, with news about James Baldwin and Gertrude Stein and Marie Antoinette--and her heirs. There are quotes too from French intellects like Balzac and de Bea ...more
Aleksandr Voinov
Oct 01, 2014 Aleksandr Voinov rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club-reads
2.5 stars. There doesn't seem to be a Kindle version of the book. Bought it for bookclub read tomorrow. (Mostly because I'm setting my current novel in Paris.)
Susie Bright
Mar 09, 2008 Susie Bright rated it it was amazing
I was on a book tour in the 80s at the same time the author Edmund White was touring his "State of Desire," and we appeared in a few common events. I remember thinking this was my favorite contemporary look at gay life in America I had read to date. Now... all these years later, I get ready to go the Paris, with an armful of "guides," and White's book on the art of the "flaneuse" is heaven-sent. He has a way of capturing a city and its community and history like no other. You just can't put it d ...more
Jun 11, 2015 Dena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whenever I'm lucky enough to travel I make a point of reading something about the place. I read this in Paris in a tiny flat on the rue Lepic (#9). A love letter to White's adopted city, it allowed me to look at everything around me with a critical eye. His descriptions are lush, raw, and an education.

I was saved from a major faux pas by reading that the French consider bringing a bottle of wine to a dinner party to be rude. It sends a subtle message that the hosts wine cellar isn't up to your s
Sep 03, 2011 Chaundra rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, paris
I chose this book from the title alone, and it lived up to the expectations. Like the flaneur himself, this book ambles gently and easily through Paris in all it's modes - historical, "current" (at least based on the author's term there in the 80s), philosophical, and cultural. He treats the less attractive sides of living in Paris with the same matter-of-fact curiosity as it's more delightful. A great book for those who know and love Paris, or those who want to visit vicariously and see a side ...more
Zöe Yu
Oct 13, 2014 Zöe Yu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
I found all the chapters are reluctantly "linked" to the theme "Flanêur" except the first chapter.. In the beginning, the author mentioned Walter Benjamin and several of his quotes regarding to the concept, but that's it. The following chapters are about Blacks, Jews and Gays. Within the chapters, the author goes back to his familiar autobiographical way of writing, which cannot even be called "loosely" related to Flanêur. Once in a while, the author mention "Baudelaire", but again, no to the po ...more
Jul 03, 2008 Eric rated it it was ok
Shelves: bagatelle, travels
A trifle I breezed through last night and this morning; but even the least of Edmund White is worth the read. I've always liked how he embraces the seaminess and the poignance of any human scene. He's lurid and wise at once, relishing the dirty details while telling you how brave and beautiful human desire is. So an ideal travel writer, really. His 'States of Desire: Travels in Gay America' is out of print; snatch it up if you stumble across a copy.
Jun 21, 2012 Monica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed a trip back into some of the more specific history of Paris: Jews, minorities, art, architecture. My love of Paris is not unknown to anyone who knows me. I could spend hours being a “Flaneur” in this city. Just walking aimlessly down streets where there is not a tourist in sight. This history of Paris is so rich and continues to amaze me. One of the reasons that I read this book is that I’m planning a trip next year again to my favourite city.
Jan 05, 2009 Geoff rated it liked it
I flew through this small book in a few hours and very much enjoyed it. Having recently been to Paris, it was a nice accoutrement for remembering certain impressions and neighborhoods, and a reminder that to actually experience Paris takes not days or months but years. Stories of families, artists, kings, politicians, noblemen and whores, and the neighborhoods attached to their histories, told in White's remarkable prose. Worth the read.
Jean-Paul Walshaw-Sauter
Dec 26, 2014 Jean-Paul Walshaw-Sauter rated it really liked it
Already after the first couple of pages you know you are in the hands of a born flâneur. White is a feral flâneur and with him you are at la bonne adresse to discover things you would never have seen and details that you would never have imagined existed. A mixture of lyric and eccentric beauty pervades this book.
Aug 27, 2009 Emmy is currently reading it
Yes, another book I am reading along with the other ones. It's best to read this on the subway, not in bed before sleep. It's possible that I'll somehow begin to like Baudelaire, whom White mentions, after reading this book.
May 11, 2014 Deborah rated it liked it
I bought this because of the title, I love the idea of being a flaneur and histories of shopping and department stores often refer to Balzac's works about wandering around Paris. Also because the cove is absolutely beautiful. It wasn't as poetic or geographical as I expected, but it was still very interesting. White muses on Parisian literary figures, the black, Jewish and gay stories of Paris, and royalists/monarchists, not physically wandering but pottering about in the city's history, I guess ...more
Apr 30, 2011 Martin rated it liked it
If this book had an index, this would be a four-star review.
Jan 17, 2016 R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to R. by: Misha
Shelves: 2016
Move aside Moveable Feast, there is a new Paris-From-An-Outsider's-Perspective in town. The Flaneur is a generous collection of essays that highlight the Paris art scene (jazz musicians, painters with exhibitions, writers, dancers, and, yes, flappers and flaneurs) and the city's magical ability to provide visitors friendly exile on a very colorful main street. Also much appreciated was the map of the city -- too often these Frogs write their postwar noir (Modiano), their speculative histories (H ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Dennis rated it really liked it
The Flaneur and Flynnur are closer than you think. One who perambulates off the beaten path in search for an experience, a moment in which one learns something insightful, interesting, invigorating. Take a deep breath, that's a true Florentine smell. Or in this case, it's Parisian. I really, really enjoyed this insider's view of the nooks and crannies of Paris off the beaten path. Between the Place de Concorde, the Jardin du Luxembourg, Montparnasse, are real Parisian jewels -- tiny forgotten mu ...more
E. Journey
Nov 21, 2015 E. Journey rated it really liked it
What do you do if you want to see the real Paris (not the guidebook city)? You flâner. The many parks and cafés of Paris (not to mention the Pont des Arts) help make this activity a pleasure.

Flâner. A French verb meaning to promenade, amble along, without objective, but merely for the pleasure of watching and observing. A man who is thus engaged is a flâneur; a woman, a flâneuse. That is how Edmund White (who lived in Paris >10 years) has seen Paris.

He fills this little book with gossipy, rel
Jul 20, 2009 Lanew-yorkaise rated it liked it

“For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate observer, it’s an immense pleasure to take up residence in multiplicity, in whatever’s seething, moving, evanescent and infinite: you’re not at home, but you feel at home everywhere, you see everyone, you’re at the center of everything yet you remain hidden from everybody…The amateur of life enters into the crowd as into an immense reservoir of electricity.”

-Charles Baudelaire

The flâneur in Edmund White’s novel of the sa
Mar 09, 2009 Cameron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Flânerie as explicated by Edmund White is less about actual locomotion than the exploratory urge, the quest to investigate the cracks within the city, specifically Paris. He details the flâneur as a distinctly Parisian creation, drawing upon the city's nuances and dichotomies, its ethnic character, literary and artistic traditions, and the nature of the Parisians themselves.

This is not a book about walking in Paris, and yet, that is all it concerns. The stroll White takes us on touches upon a g
Mar 04, 2009 Erik rated it really liked it
Aptly subtitled “A Stroll though the Paradoxes of Paris”, White’s first travelogue –according to my recollection, as all of his work I’ve read to date have been fiction – meanders its way through Paris past and present A virtual mind-walk through the City of Lights, this is. He starts off this slender volume (best read on a rainy weekend afternoon) by criticizing the current state of Gallic affairs.

"…Paris itself has become a cultural backwater. There aren’t more than two or three internationall
Alfredo Ruiz
I was fortunate to have been given this book as a gift from my amazing boss, the day I left for Paris. However, it was unfortunate that I didn't read most of on the plane, before I landed. My time in Paris would not have been any less enjoyable, but it would have been more insightful and quaint. That's pretty much how I found The Flaneur. Not to diminish the visible work and research that Edmund White put into this short piece of non-fiction, but White saunters through the history and streets of ...more
Seamus Thompson
Sep 11, 2012 Seamus Thompson rated it really liked it

Quick, fascinating meditation on Paris by a long-time resident, American writer Edmund White. White knows his subject and does a nice job balancing more informative passages with lively anecdotes and observations. The chapter on the reception of minorities over the years is particularly fascinating (American blacks were generally well-received but anti-semitism has long been a problem). Equally fascinating is a chapter about the treatment of gays: anti-sodomy laws were banned in 1791, a protecti
Oct 21, 2009 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: france
For anyone who is interested in that masterpiece of cities, Paris, I highly recommend this little book. It is highly selective, deliberately highlighting places that do not typically appear in guidebooks. The majority of the book deals with several disparate groups of people who have found refuge in the City of Lights: (1) Afro-Americans; (2) Jews; (3) gays; and (4) royalists and/or monarchists. There is also a chapter dedicated to the Musée Gustave Moreau on the Right Bank and the Hôtel de Lauz ...more
Aug 09, 2015 Regina rated it liked it
I read this in the train on the way to and from Paris.
Had wanted to read something set in Paris during my trip and this was all the library had that I hadn't already read.
It was also filed under fiction which it is not.
All very random. I was looking for the motto/red line/thread but couldn't find it.
One good thing, it explained the Expiatory Chapel that was located in my neighborhood.
Quite a bit of gay history though, which was interesting but even that was not the motto of the book.
Feb 02, 2015 Terry rated it liked it
Shelves: lit-crit, history, travel
White's task, to span five-plus centuries of a nebulous idea to begin with: "the flâneur — that aimless stroller who loses himself in the crowd, who has no destination and goes wherever caprice or curiosity directs his or her steps: and to set it all down in the city, Paris, where the idea, the ideal, and the aimless stroller were born and live, and do it in a pocket-sized hardcover at that — one suitable for carrying as reference, an oxymoron, surely, in this instance, while engaged in one's ow ...more
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Edmund White's novels include Fanny: A Fiction, A Boy's Own Story, The Farewell Symphony, and A Married Man. He is also the author of a biography of Jean Genet, a study of Marcel Proust, The Flâneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, and, most recently, his memoir, My Lives. Having lived in Paris for many years, he is now a New Yorker and teaches at Princeton University. He was also a membe ...more
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“Americans consider the sidewalk an anonymous backstage space, whereas for the French it is the stage itself.” 1 likes
“It's a mild hell so comfortable that it resembles heaven.” 0 likes
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