- Publisher: WW Norton & Co
- Format: Hardback | 496 pages
- Dimensions: 160mm x 241mm x 38mm | 862g
- Publication date: 18 June 2010
- Publication City/Country: New York
- ISBN 10: 0393067246
- ISBN 13: 9780393067248
- Illustrations note: 16 pages of illustrations
- Sales rank: 122,395
This is the Paris you never knew. From the Revolution to the present, Graham Robb has distilled a series of astonishing true narratives, all stranger than fiction, of the lives of the great, the near-great, and the forgotten. A young artillery lieutenant, strolling through the Palais-Royal, observes disapprovingly the courtesans plying their trade. A particular woman catches his eye; nature takes its course. Later that night Napoleon Bonaparte writes a meticulous account of his first sexual encounter. A well-dressed woman, fleeing the Louvre, takes a wrong turn and loses her way in the nameless streets of the Left Bank. For want of a map-there were no reliable ones at the time-Marie-Antoinette will go to the guillotine. Baudelaire, the photographer Marville, Baron Haussmann, the real-life Mimi of La Boheme, Proust, Adolf Hitler touring the occupied capital in the company of his generals, Charles de Gaulle (who is suspected of having faked an assassination attempt in Notre Dame)-these and many more are Robb's cast of characters, and the settings range from the quarries and catacombs beneath the streets to the grand monuments to the appalling suburbs ringing the city today. The result is a resonant, intimate history with the power of a great novel.
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Graham Robb is the author of three prize-winning biographies, each one selected as New York Times Best Books. His most recent works, The Discovery of France and Parisians, have earned several awards and much acclaim between them. He lives on the Anglo-Scottish border.
"[Robb] has proved himself to be one of the more unusual and appealing historians currently striding the planet. In a better world his books would be best sellers everywhere...His book-argumentative, gallant, parked athwart oncoming historical traffic, as if on a dare-is as Parisian and as bracing as a freshly mixed Pernod and water." -- Dwight Garner "Ingenious...Marvelously entertaining, boundlessly energetic and original...This book is the sort of triumph that we have no right to expect to come from anyone in the steady way that Robb's masterly books come from him." -- Philip Hensher "A superior historical guidebook for the unhurried traveler, and altogether a book to savor." "Graham Robb's new book is so richly pleasurable that you feel it might emit a warm glow if you left it in a dark room. Essentially it is a collection of true stories, culled from Robb's insatiable historical reading and lit by his imagination. He has the passion of a naturalist displaying a wall of rare butterflies or a cabinet of exotic corals, but his specimens are all human and walked the streets of Paris at some point between the French revolution and now...[A] generous and humane book." -- John Carey "Book of the Week" "Robb, in employing the techniques of the novelist, animates his characters mainly for 'the pleasure of thinking about Paris.' That pleasure is also the reader's." -- Brenda Wineapple
Back cover copy
Praise for The Discovery of France by Graham Robb: A New York Times Notable Book of the Year A Slate Best Book of the Year A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year Winner of the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize Rid your mind of the idea suggested by the title that this is an ordinary book. Literary Review An exhilarating account of how the geographical entity that has become France emerged out of the jumbled mosaic of its unconnected parts. The Independent Brilliant. Robb, who writes beautifully, . . . has accomplished quite a feat. He has reintroduced France to itself. New York Times Scintillating and resourceful. Harper s For his meticulous research, [Robb] deserves a standing ovation . . . to paraphrase Proust, this is a priceless glimpse into history. Seattle Times"