Having lived in Paris for more than 20 years, Baxter (The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris, 2011, etc.), a guide to literary walks through the city, won’t show you exactly which streets to follow; rather, he’ll teach you how to know Paris and truly feel the enjoyment of flânerie.
The activity of flânerie encompasses wandering aimlessly, going with the wind, and observing life as you go. One day, a customer asked the author if he did night walks, and the author decided that the five senses should be his guides. The joy of his writing is to realize that, even after living there for two decades, Paris still provides him with new avenues to explore. He divides the book into itineraries guided by the senses, but readers will need to dig deep to appreciate the connections. Readers who love Paris will likely love this book. No one can successfully write about Paris unless they truly love every nuance, oddity, and secret of her life; here, the author shines. Baxter’s knowledge of those who have written about Paris—for years, he has collected such work—will lead readers to all sorts of corners that do not show up in any tourist guides. The author cites surrealist Philippe Soupault’s Last Nights of Paris (1929) to show that in Paris at night, there may not be as much to see as many believe. Rather, the nighttime is a perfect canvas for thinking, a blank page on which to exercise the imagination, developing ideas in the dark. In closing, Baxter writes, “each of us must, in our own way, as with a new lover, seduce, or allow ourselves to be seduced by the Paris night.”
This is not a walking guide to Paris, but it is most certainly a guide to seeing and knowing Paris, one no Francophile should be without.