Is it possible to be haunted by a city?
I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to visit Paris five times. My last trip, in January, lasted more than two weeks. I expected to leave sated after such a long “fix.” Instead, it only increased my yearning to return.
I can’t really explain why I love Paris. It’s a huge, crowded city with all the soot, graffiti, noise and garbage you’d expect from 12 million people. And yet I find it beautiful. I feel completely at home.
I know it’s not realistic, but lately I find myself daydreaming about living there. Probably not forever, but maybe for a year.
But since jobs in Paris are even more scarce than in the States (and since my French is marginal at best), I’ve had to content myself with living in Paris vicariously through others.
It’s amazing how many books there are about expats living in Paris. Of course, Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is the grand-daddy of them all.
Then, there’s Stephen Clarke’s hilariously irreverent A Year in the Merde. I got a huge kick out of his witty stories, but came away with an overall impression of derision and intolerance.
More to my taste was Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. I thought it was an extraordinarily insightful observation of the myriad small cultural differences that make Paris so wonderfully, well, foreign. (It’s also a marvelous primer on French politics, cooking, sports, history and architecture!)
Right now I’m in the middle of Suzy Gershman’s C’est La Vie. Too bad I don’t have her connections—or her income. And it’s too bad I’ll probably never live in Paris. But at least I can haunt its streets in my dreams.