Author: FP

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig: Around the World in Books

Bereft of an adjective to describe the experience of reading Stefan Zweig’s memoir and manifesto, The World of Yesterday, I looked up the definition of “uncanny”: “strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.” That is the one that fits. Read before November 2016, The World of Yesterday would be intermittently involving, occasionally fascinating, often tedious, at least for this reader. (I found myself in the habit of discovering paragraphs and sentences of startling beauty, amongst gossip, and bragging, and name-dropping, and blather.) Read now, it is terrifying in a particular way. Watching a house burn down is sad. Watching your own house burn down is horrifying. Watching a house that seems to resemble your own, in so many unexpected ways — that is uncanny. Once the most-translated author in Europe, Zweig’s life began in the cradle of the Hapsburg monarchy: “We lived well, we lived with light hearts and minds at ease in old Vienna, and the Germans to the north looked down with some annoyance and scorn at us, their neighbors on the Danube who, …

I Met Yvan Amar And It Was Amazing, At Least For Me

So last weekend was the Salon du Livre, the big Paris book expo, and it was amazing, for so many reasons: for the chance to see a bazillion books all in one place, for all the booksellers from all over the world, especially the Middle East and Africa, and for all the amazing book design. I took many pictures of the book covers, and they are all below. That, though, is not the point of this post. The point of this post is to say that I met Yvan Amar, and it was amazing. Yvan Amar is the RFI broadcaster responsible for les mots de l’actualité: the words from the news. These have included calamité, démonétiser, couteau, and many others. I use it to practice my French, and so I constantly have Yvan Amar’s voice in my head. Hearing it in real life was trippy. Here is how I handled it. I believed I spotted him, at the RFI broadcasting booth. I walked toward him, to see if I could hear him speaking. (I could.) I …

Aquaboulevard Is the Most Amazing Place in Paris

When one thinks of Paris, many things come to mind: the Eiffel Tower, croissants, the Louvre, the lovely buildings, the blossoming trees, excellent customer service. I’ll tell you what does not come to mind, unless you are a sophisticated consumer of the world’s finest indoor/outdoor water parks, and that is Aquaboulevard, delighting French children and wandering expats alike at the end of line 8. Aquaboulevard is not a secret, but I have found that it is universally known among parents of children, somewhat well known among Parisians, and not at all well known among everyone else. Let me describe it: Aquaboulevard is a massive water park, with both indoor and outdoor facilities. Its activities include many water slides, a “wake box,” and “la corde,” which appears to be a rope. I did not know this at the time of my reconnaissance, but apparently there is also a Sauna Parc accessible for an additional €9 over the €33 entry fee, comprised of three saunas and a hammam. I do not know if I can describe why I found …

A True Story About Customer Service in Paris

Last night, at trivia night, I decided I wanted not fish and chips (€13) but fish and mozzarella sticks (€6.50). Pourquoi pas? You only give your arteries one chance in this life; you might as well clog them with only your first choice of snack foods. Anywhere else in Paris I would have gone up to the bar and paid my €19.50. But trivia night is at a Scottish-themed pub: Perhaps they would be amenable to some negotiation? I went to the bar and explained my situation. “I would like fish and chips but no chips and an order of mozzarella sticks,” I said. Actually I explained it at significantly more length than that. “I’m not saying you should like swap the fries for the mozzarella sticks,” I said, because I am not a monster. “But could you maybe take like €2 off the total?” “Sure!” the bartender said. “That’ll be €19.50!” The bartender’s friend laughed and explained something I did not entirely understand in French. “Oh, oh,” the bartender said. “Let me see what …

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A Look at the Foire de Chatou

  Last weekend, we went out to Chatou for the Foire de, an annual gathering of some of France’s best and most expensive antique dealers. It’s definitely the sort of fair that’s more about inspiration than buying stuff — I saw pieces there that cost twice or even three times as much as what I’d seen at the Porte de Vanves flea market literally three hours earlier. So — that’s not ideal. But if you’re, you know, “in the market to dream,” this is (cough) heaven on Earth! It goes through Sunday. See more about it here!  

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It’s Easier Than Ever To Move To France. Here’s Why.

Here’s why it’s easier than ever to move to France. And this is not a fake reason like, “Because you’ve never been less scared in your whole life!” or “Because after a lifetime of saying Oui mais non! the only answer must be Non mais ouiiiii!” There are a million ways to live full- or part-time in France — this is just mine; if you’re a student, spouse, fiancé, entrepreneur, artist, whatever, there’s a different path and an entirely different set of paperwork to assemble. And this does not pertain to work visas. Work visas? I have literally no idea. This pertains specifically to a long-stay visitor’s visa: a visa de long séjour — visiteur. A long-stay visitor’s visa is a very good visa for a writer to have. Stay as long as you like: The three-months-in-three-months-out Schengen rule does not apply to you. Have a nice time, drink wine. Renew it in a year. If you don’t like renewing it in a year, consider the skills and talents visa (la carte compétences et talents), if you are skillful and talented. Most …

The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas: Around the World in Books

I am trying to read a book from every country in the world. The last book I read was Italy: My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. THE BOOK: The Ice Palace, by Tarjei Vesaas IN SHORT: This is an utterly strange story about the relationship between two young Norwegian girls, and the titular ice palace. THE BEST BIT: This is a crazy book. I loved it the first time I read it, and liked it the second — maybe because the absolute otherworldliness of the titular ice palace — a frozen-over waterfall, and all the mysterious caverns behind it — were no longer a surprise, and what you’re left with is a difficult little story, about two young girls: 11-year-old Unn, newly arrived in a small Norwegian community, and Siss, a popular girl at their school. They are in that weird, gray place between childhood and adolescence, and whatever bubbles up between them, scares and enraptures them both. Even an early meeting is couched in the language of a very preliminary seduction: “[Unn was] an attractive girl. … …