By Edmund White
Bloomsbury USA, Hardcover, 9781582341354, 211pp.
Publication Date: March 1, 2001
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.
A flaneur is a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles through a city without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the place and in covert search of adventure, esthetic or erotic. Edmund White, who lived in Paris for sixteen years, wanders through the streets and avenues and along the quays, taking us into parts of Paris virtually unknown to visitors and indeed to many Parisians. Entering the Marais evokes the history of Jews in France, just as a visit to the Haynes Grill recalls the presence-festive, troubled-of black Americans in Paris for a century and a half. Gays, Decadents, even Royalists past and present are all subjected to the flaneur's scrutiny.
Edmund White's "The Flaneur" is opinionated, personal, subjective. As he conducts us through the bookshops and boutiques, past the monuments and palaces, filling us in on the gossip and background of each site, he allows us to see through the blank walls and past the proud edifices and to glimpse the inner, human drama. Along the way he recounts everything from the latest debates among French law-makers to the juicy details of Colette's life in the Palais Royal, even summoning up the hothouse atmosphere of Gustave Moreau's atelier.