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?