Join Downie (Paris to the Pyrenees: A Skeptic Pilgrim Walks the Way of St. James, 2013, etc.) for a top-notch walking tour of Paris.
In search of what makes Paris romantic, the author takes us to the 19th century. Early on he notes that Paris may be romantic just because writers, artists and musicians say it is. But romanticism is not just literary or artistic; it’s also political. Throughout the 1800s, there was a host of activists who mocked the status quo. Victor Hugo based his play Hernani, about adulterous lovers and their unfortunate end, on true life, and as Paris audiences often did, they rioted, opening the war between romanticism and classicists. Throughout the book, the author shares his love of places that he has explored for 30 years. He recounts the lives and loves of Hugo, Dumas, Sand, Delacroix and so many others in the romantic shrines of the Marais, Luxembourg Gardens and the Arsenal Library. Literature of this age reflected the essence of romanticism, where chronology and logical plots were reactionary. The French are complex, ambiguous and contradictory by nature, and they are proud of their weaknesses and faults. Understanding the romantics requires understanding Paris, and searching for the real Paris is part of the journey. On that journey, Downie is the consummate guide. Reflecting on Foucault’s pendulum, the author writes, “the real Paris is of the mind, so it doesn’t exist and can’t age.” The author’s encyclopedic knowledge of the city and its artists grants him a mystical gift of access: Doors left ajar and carriage gates left open foster his search for the city’s magical story.
Anyone who loves Paris will adore this joyful book. Readers visiting the city are advised to take it with them to discover countless new experiences.