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Paris in the Present Tense

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  3,431 ratings  ·  588 reviews
Mark Helprin’s powerful, rapturous new novel is set in a present-day Paris caught between violent unrest and its well-known, inescapable glories.

Seventy-four-year-old Jules Lacour—a maître at Paris-Sorbonne, cellist, widower, veteran of the war in Algeria, and child of the Holocaust—must find a balance between his strong obligations to the past and the attractions and bea
Hardcover, 394 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Harry N. Abrams
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Jane S. Continue! Not all Jews in this story are good people. But of course the anti-sémitismes is directed at ALL Jews, good and bed. Not all the Christians …moreContinue! Not all Jews in this story are good people. But of course the anti-sémitismes is directed at ALL Jews, good and bed. Not all the Christians are good, either. That is life. Keep your eyes on Jules, though. The book was slow going for me, too. But it picked up!(less)

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Average rating 4.06  · 
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Larry H
Mar 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I first encountered Mark Helprin when I read his beautiful, magical book, Winter's Tale , many years ago. It utterly transfixed me, and took me into a completely different world. I read a few of his other books over the years and they didn't quite move or touch me the same way, but I still marveled at his storytelling, as it's sometimes much harder to tell a story rooted in reality than in a fantasy world.

Helprin's latest book, Paris in the Present Tense , definitely drew me in from the ve
Elyse  Walters
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow!!!....Sooooo deeply moving and beautiful! SUCH A WONDERFUL NOVEL!

Monseuer Jules Lacour a character that will stay with me for long time....
I was completely mesmerized by this wise, and tormented 74 year old Jewish Parisian man.
.....cellist, lover of classical music, lover of women, ( but loved and missed his deceased wife most of all), lover of beauty, a teacher, and Holocaust survivor.....
His life was complex - he struggled —he loved passionately- his soul was pure - not a selfis
Violet wells
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
The plot lines in this novel wouldn't be out of place in a blockbuster movie.

The seventy-five-year-old hero Jules Lacour, a music teacher, comes to the defence of a Hasidic Jew being attacked by three Muslims. He kills two of them and the other flees as does the Hasidic Jew. There's thus no evidence this isn't a murder with no extenuating circumstances. Jules flees by swimming a good length of the Seine and taking refuge in the boathouse of the rowing club he belongs to. First point of interest
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Dazzling! Just when I thought the plot was predictible, it wasn't. When I was about to roll my eyes at the May/December romance, it pivoted. When I worried that the author used one too many metaphors, his character made a joke about it. When I suspected that too much -- even death -- would be resolved by beauty, I was mistaken. A completely disarming, riveting and humane book. I love this author.
This is a book about the past and the present and the fictional character Jules Lacour. He is maître at the Sorbonne Musical Faculty in Paris. He writes music, teaches and plays the cello. The year is 2014. He is seventy-four and a widower, having tragically lost his wife four years earlier to cancer. He adored his wife; he still adores her, but this does not prevent him from falling in love--again and again and again. When he falls in love, he falls at the blink of an eye, with the touch of a h ...more
Sharon Hart-Green
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a haunting story of love, longing and the meaning of sacrifice. It is also a tribute to the beauty of Paris. However, the book is not just an excuse for poetic musing. It has a gripping plot that keeps you wanting to read until the last page. A tragically beautiful story by a master writer.
Bruce Katz
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
A wonderful, touching, and intelligent book. The title perfectly captures the theme of the novel, but it is only once you're fully immersed that you begin to appreciate the depth of the author's vision. The main character is a charming and capable septuagenarian who is a musician, widower, veteran of the Algerian war, committed runner/swimmer/oarsman, Holocaust survivor, a man quick to fall in love but still too much in love with his deceased wife to act, a loving grandfather of a desperately il ...more
Esther Krivda
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
'Paris in the Present Tense' surely must be written by a magician. For I don’t know who else could include on one page, in one paragraph and sometimes even in one sentence haunting memories; the reasoning of a philosopher; riffs on music musically written; asides written with such snark, Shakespeare himself would’ve envied them (‘…and you are both very tall and fat, so that although your desk might conceivably hide behind you, you cannot conceivably hide behind it.’); lampooning a corporate boar ...more
I don't think Mark Helprin is my cup of tea at all. I didn't get Winter's Tale and I didn't get Paris in the Present Tense. But I liked Paris slightly better, because at least it was a bit more coherent. There's also a speech in it that the main character Jules makes, about how he has preserved Jewish culture even if he does not practice it. It's the most I've been moved in the two Helprin books. An extra star, just for that.

But otherwise? I don't see the beauty in the language, it does nothing
Mar 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: contemporary, 2018
i'm not so sure about this book. there is without a doubt superb prose in it, "sparkling" - which seems to be one of his favourite words, would also accurately describe it. and wisdom, beauty... but also embarrassing "plot-turns", a super-athletic 74-year old cellist and university professor who runs and swims like an anthlete training for olympia, and also falls deeply in love with almost every woman he sees for even 30 seconds, while considering himself deeply loyal to his dead wife.
while the
Jill Mackin
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
So well written. A wonderful story.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale is one of my very favorite books. Curiously, I’ve not read any other of his novels until this week, when I sailed through Paris in the Present Tense. The writing is stunning. Helprin makes marvelous lists, draws the reader fully into the world he depicts, uses humor wryly. His main character in this book became almost real to me, and I felt the urge to fly off to Paris just to sit on a bench with me. This is a book full of love, and while not quite as fabulous as Win ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
In the first few pages of this book, Helprin thrashes about with language like a bad actor in an extended death scene. He is in love with his command of the language and not afraid to shout that love from what ever promontory presents itself. The first chapter was almost enough to make me put down the book.

While one never loses the sense that the author is pretty pleased with his own writing, it does get a little less overworked, and so I stuck with it. I can't say that was a good decision, as t
Ed Bernard
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is, simply, the finest novel I have read in a long time. It is gorgeously written, perfectly plotted and filled with deep yet accessible ruminations on ... well, everything- life, aging, living, dying, Paris, Judaism, beauty, music and much more. One review I read (after I'd finished) revealed a key plot development that doesn't happen until well into the book (WTF??) so I'm not gonna describe the story. Just read it.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Perfect. Mark Helprin writes better than most, and this is a big book, along the scale of The Winter's Tale and A Soldier of the Great War. The plot is both simple and complicated. Jules Lacour, aging cellist, is a Holocaust survivor as a young child. At the end of his life, he embarks upon a plan that will both validate his life and ensure that love continues. If that sounds elliptical, it's because I don't want to spoil anything for the reader. But here's what is pretty wonderful. Helprin expl ...more
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Paris in the present tense ⭐️

Star reasoning
⭐️The audiobook was done to perfection. And by that I mean, the accent made me love the story more then I would have if I read this.

⭐️ I enjoyed the music aspect because i am a musician and love everything music and the creation of great music.

+1 and also - 1. I feel as though i would really like this but right now its not what i want so im not enjoying it. When i want something like this though it will be perfect.

-2 I didnt feel like there was a sol
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thin-ish plot, and I prefer a transporting one. But I enjoyed the reflective feel of this novel and the often evocative use of setting.

I’m rarely a fan of the common shifting of perspective back and forth in time, but it was necessary and done pretty well. This was an interesting, strangely quiet read for the subject matter it covers, and I enjoyed returning to it day after day.
Sharon McNeil
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My first experience reading Mark Helprin. Excellent, I shall read more!!!
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hattlibrary
This is my first Helprin book, and now I’ll go back for all the others. Beautifully written tale of an old musician’s last adventure, with many other great characters and subplots—I loved it.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wasn’t sure about this as I read but finished and appreciated how well done it was. Paris was my favorite character.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best things about being in a book group is that it forces you to read books you might otherwise miss. Paris in the Present Tense is just such a book. I adored it. Not everyone in my book group did, which led to a terrific discussion.

There is music. There is love – and loss. There is the horror of the Holocaust. There is violence and family angst and corporate malfeasance. There is a police investigation that is, frankly, a hoot. Through it all, there is one man whose life has been sha
Rod Brown
I must surrender at page 78, a victim of this horribly overwritten, dreadfully dull book. All I could think is how much this is the antithesis of the lean prose of Richard Stark's The Hunter.

Also, as I neared the end of my patience, I started to realize that this is perhaps supposed to be humorous. I mean, not in the way I found it funny how awfully verbose the author is, how many pages it took him to say even the simplest things. But I think this is all intended to be witty and satirical in som
My first Mark Helprin book and it was interesting…about a very active 74-year old Jules Lacour who both looks back on his life and lives in the present. There was a lot going on - back to his childhood, active duty in Algeria and his life in France. While taking stock of his life, as well as the challenges his family is facing with the illness of his grandson, he begins to formulate a plan. Throw in a violent episode, plot to help his family, encounter with a very young cellist and then a woman ...more
Shellie Taylor
Aug 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs
I received an ARC of "Paris in the Present Tense" by Mark Helprin. Thank you to W.W. Norton.

I really have a mixed review here. I have heard good things about Helprin's writing and I was not entirely disappointed on that front. On one side Helprin's writing is phenomenal. He has this incredible ability to make readers feel like they are inside a character's mind, almost like they are the character themselves. Having said that about his characters, I feel like the only character I was really drawn
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is not a perfect book but damn Mark Helprin is such a writer, lying on my couch I am fully immersed in another reality, all my senses, internal and external, 100% alive in his world.
Love is absolute. It can't be measured or contained It's the one thing that you hold onto as you fall into the abyss....And, like music, it enables you so far to transcend your bounds that you can't even begin to understand it. p25

To be alive is not to be systematized; to be systematized is not to be alive. p55

Mark Helprin's latest novel is essentially a languid meditation on mortality and music. The actions that divide the sections of the book propel it forward and there is a lot of vigorous ex
John Williams
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I became acquainted with Mark Helprin's immense talent a couple of years ago while experiencing his magnificent epic novel A Soldier of the Great War, a work that still resonates with me after all this time.

In his latest novel Paris in the Present Tense, Helprin presents an unusual protagonist in French septuagenarian Jules Lacour, a music professor, cellist, grieving widower, and doting grandfather. Jules is a quiet, unassuming man who believes "heaven is to be found in simple things." At a tim
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Jules Lacour was born in 1940, while his parents were hiding in an attic in Reims. His mother prayed that he would not cry, he seldom did, and in the four years that followed neither he nor they spoke above a whisper. That was the beginning of a long story."

From this short introduction the author brings us to present-day Jules Lacour as he is aboard Air France on his way from the United States to his home in Paris; within this passage lies the fact that his wife has died, his only grandchild ha
Parisa Assar
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I took one star out and put it back again. One star substraction was because of the subtle traces of Islamophobia in his story but the prose itself and masterfully caressing your eyes and ears with his words, I decided to give Helprin and his book the fifth star back. He makes love tangible and materializes it into words so beautifully that reader doesn't mind the slow tempo at all.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mark Helprin is a great story teller, I picked up the book because of the cover and could not let go for a week. I didn t expect this heartfelt story to be such a smart sensitive thriller. This book is beautifully written and when you think you have read or watched everything on Jewish survivors , the author embarks you on a beautiful journey into the world of music, remembrance, love and guilt in the city of lights like you have never experienced it.
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Mark Helprin belongs to no literary school, movement, tendency, or trend. As many have observed and as Time Magazine has phrased it, “He lights his own way.” His three collections of short stories (A Dove of the East and Other Stories, Ellis Island and Other Stories, and The Pacific and Other Stories), six novels (Refiner's Fire, Winter's Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Memoir From Antproof Case ...more

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“The more perfect something is, the less it can be loved -- like a face, a body, voice, tone, color, or music itself. In playing a piece, don't strive for perfection: it will kill the piece in that it will prevent it from entering the emotions. That's the kind of advice you can't do anything with except perhaps later, when you don't even know you're doing it. It's part of the freeze of counterpoint.'
'I've never heard that expression,' she said.
'Stasis may be a better word -- the liberation of the space between two contradictions. Let me explain if I can. If two waves of equal but opposite amplitude meet in water, what do you get'
'Flat water.'
'In sound?'
'Right. From agitation, peace, a perfection that you might have thought unobtainable from the clash of contradictory elements.'
'I think you've explained the magic of counterpoint very well.'
'Not really. It's inexplicable. I've noted it, that's all. Half of humanity's troubles arise from the inability to see that contradictory propositions can be valid simultaneously.”
“I wish that, like you, I could have spent my life transported aloft, as it were, every day, in music. Instead, I've lived like a caffeinated parrot.” 2 likes
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