Giacometti at the Auto Show


From the Archive

The 1955 Citroen DS


Our new, redesigned website marks the debut of our complete digital archive: now subscribers can read every piece from The Paris Review’s sixty-three-year history. Subscribe now and you can start reading 0ur back issues right away; you can also try a free ten-day trial period

We’re celebrating by offering a sample of some of our favorite writing from the magazine’s past. Today, an essay from our Spring 1958 issue by the Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti, who ventured to a French motor show (ahem, Salon d’Auto) to answer a burning question: Can the “beauty” of a car be compared to that of a statue? Giacometti brings a gift for wry metaphor to his judgments:

It is always difficult to see a car as a whole. The eye is usually attracted to one aspect or another, caught now by a headlight—that great mechanical eye with the look of an optical instrument, a giant microscope. A car nearby looked like dribbling marmalade … It does happen sometimes that I stop in the street to look at a car which reminds me of a toad, a bull, or a grasshopper; in the same way, perhaps, as I will gaze at a cloud, watching it ruffle into the shape of a head; or again, at a tree trunk, seeing there a tiger ready to spring. A car, like every other machine, is a recent discovery. It descends not only from the carriage but from the horse and carriage combined. The resulting product is certainly strange: a complete mechanical organism, having eyes, a mouth, a heart, and intestines; it will eat and drink and go on working until it breaks—what an odd parody of a living being.

Read the full piece here, and subscribe now for digital access to every short story, poem, portfolio, and essay from The Paris Review.