Grand Paris

Like the presidents, emperors, and kings before him, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is eager to make his mark on Paris. Instead of proposing monumental buildings inside the city, in 2007 he proposed a comprehensive plan for "greater Paris" to integrate the suburbs and the city of Paris by 2005. In 2009, ten architectural and urban planning teams offered new visions of the city, which were put on public exhibition at the Palais de Chaillot. See those visions here.

Will any of those futuristic visions of Paris come true? Plan a trip to Paris for 2050 and find out.

The Future of Les Halles

Few redevelopment projects in Paris have been as controversial as the demolition of the Les Halles central market and its replacement with a sunken shopping center in 1977. Now French President Sarkozy has proposed a face-lift for the aging structure. To read about the alterations, see the New York Times article here.

2005 riots in the Paris banlieue

In late October 2005, riots lasting three weeks broke out in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sur-Bois and then spread to other Parisian suburbs as well as those of other French cities. The rioters were French youth of immigrant, largely North African, background, whose educational and employment opportunities are limited. For a full analysis of the riots, see the articles compiled on the SSRC (Social Science Research Council) website.

King of Paris Fashion: Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895- 1972)

The DeYoung Museum here in San Francisco is showing over 100 works by the great fashion designer Balenciaga. Although he was born in the Basque area of Spain, he left his homeland for Paris during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's. The show highlights the relationship of his work to the heritage of Spain. Balenciaga reigned as one of the primary kings of fashion throughout the middle of the 20th century. If you are interested in fashion then this a show you must not miss!

Balenciaga in Paris, 1960's style

May 1968

There are a number of websites dedicated to documentation of the events of May 1968 in Paris.

For written material (pamphlets, newspapers, etc.), see the May Events Archive, a digitized collection at Simon Frasier University.

For posters, there are digitized collections at Yale University, the University of Toronto, and a private website.

Here is an eyewitness account of the events in the Latin Quarter and photos of striking workers.

In French, you can find slogans, graffiti, eyewitness accounts, and a list of other French-language websites here.

Boris Vian, "The Deserter"

In the 1950s and 1960s, one of the popular songs in the Latin Quarter was Boris Vian's antiwar song, "The Deserter." Here's a subtitled rendition of it.

If you want to know more about Boris Vian, there's a tribute page to him here.

Paris: Capital City of Modern Classical Music

 The Philharmonie de Paris, a great symphonic concert hall of 2,400 seats, 
scheduled for completion  in 2012 in the Parc de la Villette in Paris.

As you may recall the infamous modern ballet "The Rite of Spring" had its premier in Paris in 1913. Since then Paris has been considered one of the great cities for experiencing modern classical music. Hundreds of well-known composers and musicians came to Paris before and after World War II to study with the famous teacher Nadia Boulanger. She lived a very long life and was the first woman to conduct many of the world's leading orchestras- including the BBC Symphony in London and the New York Philharmonic.

 Boulanger in 1925.

Below is a brief clip of Boulanger in her last years still teaching eager pupils from all over the world.

In the 1960's Paris became known as a center for the study and composition of experimental electronic music. The controversial and charismatic composer/conductor Pierre Boulez led the charge into the new realm of using electronic media to transform classical music into something entirely new and shocking. He is famous for having declared that all of Europe's opera houses should be burned to the ground- something that not many people took seriously-  lucky for us.
 Although considered a musical revolutionary and artistic anarchist in his youth, Pierre Boulez  has gone on to become one of the most sought after conductors in the world.  He conducts everything from Beethoven and Wagner to the latest avant-garde classical music.

Here is a sample of Boulez' music, the challenging "Repons".

Boulez's greatest legacy is perhaps IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) which he founded in 1970 under the patronage of French president Georges Pompidou.  IRCAM is considered one of the most prestigious classical music institutions in the world and provides an international roster of students, teachers and performers with an important venue to explore and create.

Students/musicians on the exo-skeletan staircases of IRCAM, designed by the architect Renzo Piano.

Immigration to France

If you are interested in immigration to France and speak French, the Cité National d'Histoire de l'Immigration (the national immigration museum located in Paris) has a useful website.

For an overview, watch the film, and for personal stories, listen to the interviews.

Sebbar, The Seine Was Red

On Thursday, we will discuss Leïla Sebbar's novel, The Seine Was Red: Paris, October 1961. Here are some discussion questions to consider as you read it.

1) What story does Sebbar tell about the events of October 1961?

2) What do we learn in her novel about the lives of Algerian immigrants to Paris?

3) What is the relationship between generations in the novel?

4) How does the cityscape of Paris and its suburbs figure in the novel?

Hitler's visit to Paris

In addition to the archival footage of Hitler touring Paris, his collaborator, architect Albert Speer (left), published a description of the visit in his memoirs.

You can read it here.

Vichy: France under the Nazi regime (1940-44)

Below is another very good lecture by Yale's Prof. John Merriman on the Nazi occupation of  France during World War II.

Film footage of Adolph Hitler in Paris.

The late French film director Louis Malle directed "Au Revoir Les Enfants" (1897) a film about the occupation and the deportation of French Jews by the Nazis and their French collaborators. Malle drew on his own memories of being a school boy during this period. He was a witness to fellow students being taken away to the camps because they were Jews.  Read Roger Ebert's review of the film here.

Modiano, Dora Bruder

We will discuss Patrick Modiano's novel/memoir/history/detective story, Dora Bruder on Thursday, April 21. Here are some questions to consider as you read it:

1) How much of the life of Dora Bruder is Modiano able to reconstruct? What does he learn about her? Her parents? Other Jews?

2) What do we learn about the fate of Parisian Jews during the German occupation?

3) How has Paris changed or not changed between the 1940s and the 1990s (when Modiano wrote this book)?

4) What part does the cityscape of Paris play in his work?

Josephine Baker, "I Have Two Loves"

One of Josephine Baker's most evocative songs was "J'ai deux amours" ["I Have Two Loves"], containing the famous lines:

J'ai deux amours --
Mon pays et Paris

Paris toujours

C'est mon rêve joli

I have two loves --

My country and Paris

Paris forever

That's my pretty dream.

The song was originally developed for her role in the show Paris qui remue [Paris Sizzles] in which she played a young native girl from the French empire in love with a dashing young Frenchmen. But audiences assumed that the "my country" was America. Later, Baker changed the line to "My country is Paris."

Popular music in the 1930s

Hard times beginning in the 1930s resulted in a wave of nostalgia and romanticization of working-class Paris that was especially evident in film and popular song. In René Clair's 1933 film, 14 juillet [14 July], a character sang:

A Paris, dans chaque faubourg
Le soleil de chaque journée
Fait en quelques destinées
Eclore un rêve d'amour

In every Paris district

The sun, as it rises,
For some brings into blossom

A dream of love

In 1931, Vincent Scotto and Jean Rodor wrote "Sous les ponts de Paris":

Sous les ponts de Paris,
Lorsque descend la nuit,
Comme il n'a pas de quoi s'payer une chambrette
Un couple heureux vient s'aimer en cachette.

Under the bridges of Paris,
When darkness falls,

With no money to pay for a room,

A happy couple can secretly make love.

No one embodied this trend more than Edith Piaf, a singer who rose from working-class origins in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris to become a successful performer. Her most famous songs, "Je ne regrette rien," and "La vie en rose," both date from 1946, but this song from 1936 evokes the world of Parisian street children. The French lyrics and an approximate English translation can be found here.

Riots in Paris, 1934 and 1935

Here is the film clip I showed in class regarding the Stavisky Affair riots by the far right in Paris in 1934 and the peaceful counter-demonstration the following year by the Socialist, Radical-Socialist, and Communist parties in which they affirmed their solidarity in advance of the 1936 elections.

The narration is in French, but don't worry if you can't understand it. At about one minute into the clip, the two demonstrations are separated by some shots of the Nazis marching in Germany (not in Paris!). The man making a speech during the 1935 demonstration is Socialist leader Léon Blum, who will become the French premier under the Popular Front government in 1936.

The Lives of Josephine Baker

There are two very good documentary films about Josephine Baker: Josephine Baker: The First Black Super Star (2005) and Chasing a Rainbow: The Life of Josephine Baker (1986). A third highly romanticized film version of her life was made for HBO in 1991, The Josephine Baker Story, and starred American actress Lynn Whitfield. The two documentaries are available on Youtube. The third film is not although I have posted the trailer.

Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London

On Thursday, we will discuss the Paris half of George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London. Here are some questions you should consider:

1) How does Orwell survive in Paris? What are the work and survival options for the penniless?

2) What kind of international community does Orwell find in Paris?

3) How does he portray the French?

4) How does Orwell's experience in Paris compare to that of Hemingway's?

5) Will you ever eat in a Paris restaurant again? (i.e. What do we learn about the restaurant and hotel trade in Paris?)

Map of Hemingway's Paris

Here are the locations of some of the key expatriate sites in Paris. Click on a blue place marker to find out what it is.

View Hemingway's Paris in a larger map

Surreal Women or "Yes gentlemen, SHE is more than just a muse!"

AND (click here) for a short interview with San Francisco State's very own Professor Emerita Dr. Whitney Chadwick who pioneered the study of WOMEN and SURREALISM!


Surrealism or "The Reality Above"

The False Mirror, René Magritte, oil on canvas, 1928


(or just click the links if you don't like scaring yourself 
if you believe something incredible could happen 
the incredible is something that you are not accustomed to experiencing.)


The surrealist group in Paris, circa 1930. From left to right: 
Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, Andre Breton, Hans Arp, Salvador Dali, Yves Tanguy, 
Max Ernst, Rene Crevel, Man Ray.

(and other places too)?

"Surrealism" from the BBC TV series "The Shock of the New"

Paris Was A Woman (1996 documentary)

From Zeitgeist Video:
In the early decades of the 20th century, Paris was the undisputed artistic capital of the world. Cultural titans Gertrude Stein, Colette, Djuna Barnes, painter Marie Laurencin, publishers and booksellers Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, and New Yorker journalist Janet Flanner (not to mention Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and James Joyce) were all part of the between-the-wars Left Bank inner circle. Utilizing groundbreaking research, newly-discovered home movies and intimate storytelling that intertwines interview with anecdote, this award-winning documentary re-creates the mood and flavor of a unique female artistic community who flocked to the City of Lights during its most magical era. This Edition features rare home movies of Stein, Alice B. Toklas and Picasso.   





A Moveable Feast, The Restored Edition

In 2009, Scribner published a new, controversial, version of Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, edited by his grandson, Seán Hemingway. (The original version, which is the one we are reading in class, was published by his fourth wife after Hemingway's suicide in 1961.) Some of the controversy is over the portrayals of Hadley, his first wife, and Pauline, his second wife, who appears, unnamed, at the very end of the book. But the new edition is not necessarily more "definitive" than the old edition and many Hemingway scholars do not think it is more authentic, though it does include some new material.

Here is an article about the new edition and the controversy in The New York Times and another in The Globe and Mail.

Hemingway's friend and biographer, A.E. Hotchner, wrote this disapproving op-ed when the new edition came out. Scholars have expressed doubt with his version of events.

And finally, here's a response from Seán Hemingway on Book TV.

Paris avant-garde art: two upcoming exhibitions

This summer, San Francisco will host two important exhibitions of paintings that relate to the Parisian avant-garde.

The first will be at the SF Museum of Modern Art:
The Steins Collect Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde
May 21-September 6

The second will be at the DeYoung Museum:
Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso Paris
June 11-October 9

Continue your education!

Discussion questions for Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

On Thursday, we will be discussing Ernest Hemingway's memoir of his time in Paris in the 1920s, A Moveable Feast. Below are some questions to consider:

1) How does Hemingway survive in Paris?

2) In what ways is the city important to his writing?

3) What are his relationships with the other expatriate writers in Paris?

4) What impression of Paris does his memoir leave you with?

A Salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus

Photograph by Man Ray, 1923

The American experimental writer Gertrude Stein and her life-partner Alice B. Toklas, held court at their Paris apartment 27 Rue de Fleurus for 33 years. Great authors, artists and composers visited them on a daily basis and Gertrude was responsible for helping to launch many a career. To learn more about Stein, Toklas and their world at 27 Rue de Fleurus in Paris see the links below.

Jean Cocteau: The "Jacques"-of-All-Arts

Imagine being so talented that you could work in every medium of fine and performing arts and be hailed for what you created in each category. Jean Cocteau was just such a person. Painter, designer, playwright, novelist, poet, set and costume designer, illustrator, film-maker and librettist for operas and ballets, Cocteau was also a close friend of all the notable names of modern art and culture through the first half of the twentieth century. Learn more about his amazing output here.

 Four of Cocteau's films are considered classics and all are available in restored deluxe editions from Criterion Film Collection. Beauty and the Beast is a witty, re-imagining of Perrault's classic French fairy-tale. Three films made over the course of thirty years use the mythical Greek musician Orpheus as a way to understand human creativity and the universal journey from birth to death.

The Orphic Trilogy: The Blood of the Poet (1930), Orpheus (1949) and The Testament of Orpheus (1959)

Cocteau also wrote the text for several operas. Below are scenes from two of them Oedipus Rex with music by Igor Stravinsky (composer of Rite of Spring) and The Human Voice by Francis Poulenc (composer of Dialogues of the Carmelites which we saw during the lecture on the guillotine in class).

Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse

 Two of the most well-known artists of the twentieth century are Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Both men spent significant parts of their lives making art in Paris. The BBC has made excellent TV documentaries on both of them. Below are the first parts of the two episodes. To see the full episodes visit Youtube.

The Innovations and Controversies of the Ballet Russe

The Ballet Russe took Paris by storm in the second decade of the twentieth century. The innovative uses of choreography, music, set design and costumes had an enormous effect on modern culture. The founder Sergei Diaghilev had a talent for mixing styles and for bringing the avant garde geniuses of many countries together to collaborate on his ballets.

 Diaghilev, by Leon Bakst

Two of the most controversial works that his company performed were The Rite of Spring (1913) and The Afternoon of Faun (1912). Both scandalized much of the audience for their violence and frank depictions of sexuality. But beyond the subject matter (both drew on ancient myths and legends) it was the new choreography of Vaslav Nijinsky and the bizarre rhythms of Stravinsky (Rite of Spring) that caused the greatest consternation. Diagilev and the Ballet Russe did much to solidify the reputation of Paris as a center of artistic innovation and creative experiment in the years leading up to the first World War. Below are professional recreations of these two important modern ballets.




The Victoria and Albert Museum is the largest owner of costumes from the Ballet Russe.Here is an interesting talk by one of their curators on the beautiful but nearly unwearable costumes designed by Nicholas Roerich for The Rite of Spring. Click HERE to hear the 18 minute talk!