The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘jet lag’

Postcard from Paris

July 14, 2011 | by

Dear Thessaly,

You’re probably still in bed, or finishing up a short story, but here in Paris it’s four o’clock; across the street from my hotel the bells of Nôtre Dame are playing “Three Blind Mice”; and I owe you an update from the Ville-Lumière.

It’s my first time here in years, since the indoor smoking ban in fact, but no sooner did I get through customs than I started craving a cigarette. I think it must be the strain of reading airport signs in French. This craving intensified in the taxi. By the time I got through breakfast at a tourist café on Saint Germain—jambon beurre, three cafés crèmes—it was time for a Gauloise Blonde and a nap.

My hosts at Shakespeare & Co. kindly booked me a room around the corner from the famous shop. Mine is the best room the Hotel Esmeralda has to offer, and one of the highest, smelling faintly but not unpleasantly of blow-dryer and dead mouse. It is five flights up. Reaching the top of the stairs, I dropped my bag, conked out, and dreamed of Robert Silvers: he had climbed up after me to inquire about an essay he had written on the early history of The Paris Review—an essay slated to run in our last issue, but it hadn’t.

This anxiety dream is easy to explain. You see, on the flight over I’d been reading a doctoral dissertation, Enterprise in the Service of Art: A Critical History of The Paris Review, 1953–1973, in preparation for my talk at the bookstore: “The Paris Review: Past, Present, Future.” I had taken plenty of notes, but nothing that added up to a talk.

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A Week in Culture: Amélie Nothomb, Writer, Part 2

May 5, 2011 | by

This is the second installment of Nothomb’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.

Photograph by Catherine Cabrol.

DAY FOUR

In the evening we are invited to a huge turn-of-the-century building, with something of the Phalanstère to it, entirely inhabited by artists. This is the Westbeth Center for the Arts, the largest artist’s community in the world, and it is where tonight’s “Literary Safari” is supposed to take place. The name of the event disturbs me: are they going to hunt writers with guns? The organizers reassure me: writers will be chosen by artist-inhabitants of the Phalanstère and invited into their apartments to read from one of their books. My host is Dorothy, former actress of avant-garde theater, eighty-six years old, a tiny, skinny woman of exceptional vivacity and intelligence. The audience and I are invited into her strange apartment with a sinusoidal ceiling, a moving museum of the past. They suggest that I read for fifteen minutes from my most recent novel to appear in English, Hygiene and the Assasin. There is nowhere to hide: American audiences love hearing an author read her work.  So I throw myself into it, reading first in French, without sparkle, and then in English. This last exercise proves to be a considerable challenge. The mixture of emotion and effort is so intense that, literally, I liquefy: I perspire so much that I see enormous drops of sweat falling on my text. It’s very annoying. After fifteen minutes have passed, I am nothing but a puddle. The audience, very friendly, asks me questions. With reluctance, I leave Dorothy, who lays all the flowers in her apartment in my arms: I have the impression of being a diva.

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