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The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris

(Writer and the City)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,818 ratings  ·  174 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.<
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Hardcover, 211 pages
Published March 21st 2001 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2001)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  1,818 ratings  ·  174 reviews


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Ian "Marvin" Graye
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
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Jay Green
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thoroughly engaging and enjoyable book but with only the most tenuous of connections to the idea of flaneurie, which is used as an excuse or justification for episodic narratives about diverse aspects of The Parisian landscape. The source of multiple suggestions for further reading of undeniable value to the Parisophile and a virtuoso performance in its own right, but four stars rather than five for the misleading premise.
Eddie Watkins
Oct 18, 2008 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 t
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Ellie
Jan 11, 2011 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.
Henry Sturcke
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A flâneur is always open to diversion. He lives in the knowledge that the direct line between A+B is seldom the most interesting.
In this book, White, the compleat flâneur, shares his discovery of a city that offers rich rewards for any who practice the art. Along the way, White explores not only geographical spots (many off the beaten path) but also people who live on the margin—Jews, blacks, gays, Arabs and even members of the competing sects of royalists and monarchists.
This urbane
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Michael
Mar 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Alan
Oct 17, 2008 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.
Naftoli
Jul 18, 2011 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
Dena
Jan 25, 2011 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
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Susie Bright
Mar 09, 2008 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
Chaundra
Sep 01, 2011 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
Mimi Wolske
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: flaneur
Interesting.
just a quick aside -- Impressionist artists were flaneurs.
So, with that aside, I can say this in this book, form follows function. And, throwing away a tourist guide book, the author, in a sort of tongue-in-cheek way, leads us, the readers, on a tour of Paris.
Meg
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was lovely, and the cutest edition fitting perfectly in my hands (the tactile experience of reading is still a thing folks) a collection of essays on various pockets of history and culture in Paris.
Laurie
What a wonderful book to read as I vacationed in France. When I was in Paris I would read in the Luxembourg gardens and discover new places to visit and new thoughts to think as I walked along. Particularly wonderful was White's pointing me in the direction of the Musee Nissim de Camondo on the edge of Park Monceau.
Kirsten
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
[2001] Great read for a trip to Paris. Learned about things you wouldn't find in your typical travel guide book. He incorporates his own experiences living in Paris with a more historical perspective. Covers things such as key figures in French history, Jewish life, and the French gay literary scene.
Tracey Ellis
Feb 26, 2019 rated it liked it
This book was less about ‘flâneurism’ and more about the author’s detailed knowledge of certain areas of Paris, but mostly historic details regurgitated from a list of books he’s read (listed at the back). In fact, this list is more useful than the contents of the book itself, but it was semi-engaging nonetheless.
Catie
Mar 03, 2018 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommendation from Litsy (@wanderlustforwords) - 2/21/2018
Scott
Not my favorite book about Paris... While the book provided a few interesting glimpses of Parisian and French culture and history, I mostly found the content a bit inaccessible and filled with obscure (to me) references. The premise of looking at Paris from the perspective of a stroller was promising, but perhaps I had the wrong expectations of what I'd find inside.
Dave
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read everything White puts out. His *Stroll* here is a quick meditation on Paris with breadths of praise and thoughtful prose aimed at its artists, politics, cultures, and parties throughout modern history.
Lydia
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
I read this to compare to Lauren Elkin's "Flaneuse" c2017. I like Edmund White's writing, there's usually a little history, a little wandering. However, unless you want a flavor of the city in 2001, this book, amazingly just seems too dated. White focuses on some artists of the past, the history of Jews, the history of blacks, the history of gays, the history of Muslims in the city--and comparisons to his Paris just don't seem to work. Or maybe 2017 is just not the year to read this... disappoin ...more
Alexis
Aug 24, 2012 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
Eileen
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Packed with interesting history from literature to jazz to gay Paris. The author writes superbly delineating the black experience in Paris vs the black experience in America - Each chapter is themed around an arrondissement, and in each one, the reader gets to experience the arrondissement in its historic glory to the present day. Why not five stars? Mr. White misses a big opportunity to shed light onto Turkey's history of Genocide, Genocide of the Armenians, when he spoke of di ...more
Zöe Yu
Oct 13, 2014 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
Monica
Jun 14, 2012 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.
Eric
Jul 03, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir, 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.
Geoff
Dec 04, 2008 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.
Emmy
Aug 27, 2009 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.
Martin
Mar 28, 2010 rated it liked it
If this book had an index, this would be a four-star review.
Aleksandr Voinov
Oct 01, 2014 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.)
Wilmington
Nov 02, 2019 rated it liked it
When I ordered this book I expected a travel tale similar to Bill Bryson or Paul Theroux. It is everything but that. It's hardly a travel tale at all as the author only mentions a few selected places in Paris so that he can write about artists (mostly) who have lived there. The back cover advertises the author as a stroller who ambles in the streets of Paris, but that is only a metaphorical stroll. There is no walking, no exploration, no description, and almost no personal impression on what the ...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 member of The Violet Quill, a gay writer's g ...more

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“Americans consider the sidewalk an anonymous backstage space, whereas for the French it is the stage itself.” 3 likes
“It's a mild hell so comfortable that it resembles heaven.” 0 likes
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