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Paris, When It's Naked

af Etel Adnan

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"Paris, when its naked amazes our retinas, ears, lips, fingertips, and noses with sensing, talking, and envisioning the city of Baudelaire and Delacroix, Mallarme and Picasso, Sartre and Djuna Barnes, Miller and Nin, Vietnamese and African refugees, revolutions and Bohemia. This tale of the Creative Now is told through the fine-tuned sensibility of Etel Adnan, the expatriate poet-painter who knows the French Capital as wholly as she does Beirut and San Francisco, her other homes."--back cover.… (mere)
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Cataloged as Fiction, Paris, When It's Naked reads as memoir or meditation. Adnan's prose lies in close proximity to her poetry. There isn't a plot or any real action in this "story" of reading, walking & thinking. The narrator leaves her apartment in the 6th arrondisement of Paris to walk the streets, appreciate the architecture, gardens (especially the Luxembourg) & cafés (famous ones like La Flore & neighborhood ones familiar only to les gens du coin) of Paris, a city she describes in both elegiac and critical fashion. The narrator is both an outsider and an insider here. She comes from elsewhere (Lebanon) to take up residence (a lengthy but provisional one) in the city that is (and long has been) a magnet for expatriate artists, aesthetes, revolutionaries and seekers of all stripes from everywhere in the world. The particular historical moment in question here is circa 1990, when the map of Europe is redrawn upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany & the expansion of the European Union. The narrator is much preoccupied with Russia and with the potential transformation of nation states (& former empires) such as France into a new order called simply Europe (it is interesting to contemplate her mixed feelings about these changes from a perspective two decades later):

"But is Sicily European, really? Are we going to integrate these hot southern countries into our nordic economies? Will it rain more, down there, once Europe gives itself a common army? . . . . What if Russians bring their winters to the western parts of Europe? How are we going to get up in the sheer blackness of Sweden's mornings at the same hours as in Paris?"

She is sensitive to what she sees as France's retreat toward the the North, away from the Mediterranean, so to speak, which brings with it an exacerbated racism expressed as an anti-immigrant (particularly anti African & Mid Eastern immigrant) hyper nationalism.

"Paris is receding North as do its sister-cities of Berlin and Warsaw. Everything southern is kept at bay. We're at the beginning of some private ice-age, the somnolence of winter will conduct us into the northern fields of solitude, where we will forget the interplays of life and death and subsist in darkness, on very little, indeed, very very little."

Paris, When It's Naked is a lovely little book that I highly recommend to anyone interested in elegant writing & thinking &, of course, the City of Light herself.

I neglected to mention Adnan's humor. Anyone privy to French conversation will surely appreciate such comments as the following:
"If Paris stopped talking it would be after an atomic war, and even that's not a sure proposition."


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  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
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"Paris, when its naked amazes our retinas, ears, lips, fingertips, and noses with sensing, talking, and envisioning the city of Baudelaire and Delacroix, Mallarme and Picasso, Sartre and Djuna Barnes, Miller and Nin, Vietnamese and African refugees, revolutions and Bohemia. This tale of the Creative Now is told through the fine-tuned sensibility of Etel Adnan, the expatriate poet-painter who knows the French Capital as wholly as she does Beirut and San Francisco, her other homes."--back cover.

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