cover image Paris in Turmoil: A City Between Past and Future

Paris in Turmoil: A City Between Past and Future

Éric Hazan, trans. from the French by David Fernbach. Verso, $19.95 (112p) ISBN 978-1-83976-466-0

Publisher Hazan (The Invention of Paris) meshes history, architecture, philosophy, and social geography in this concise yet wide-ranging tribute to his native Paris. Refuting the notion that the French capital is a tourist trap in a terminal state of cultural and architectural decline, Hazan shares a series of variegated snapshots, including his impressions of “Roma accordionists in the Métro” and his reminiscences of taking his daughter to a merry-go-round in Belleville. Hazan’s vignettes, masterfully translated by Fernbach, capture sights as well as sounds, including the “very peculiar sound of the key winding the spring of the meter” on the city’s “long disappeared” red and black Renault taxis. The Paris that emerges is a palimpsest, its geography and history steadily written over but always leaving traces of the past. Hazan has plenty of criticisms, including the trend of “végétalisation,” or adding green spaces dotted with “brightly coloured benches and fitness equipment,” but offers solutions, including a plan to restore the ugly and unsafe Île de la Cité to “at least something of its former spirit.” Throughout, Hazan expertly reflects on the city’s cultural and intellectual transformations, and spotlights writers who “left their mark on the city,” including Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac. The result is an astute and opinionated tour of one of the world’s great cities. (Nov.)