Discover 5 great memoirs about 1930s France

Great memoirs bring you into the heart of a life and a time. These extraordinary books offer five very different perspectives on the time. Meet a cocky writer challenging norms, a cosmopolitan sensualist, a passionate roving reporter with an uncanny prophetic sense, and a Paris-based writer who witnessed Paris descend into tragedy.

51Lk3U-JeaL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Henry Miller, The Paris Years by Brassai

He was a wild one, Henry Miller, and his friend the celebrated Hungarian photographer portrays him with affection. Their shared love was the secret, nocturnal Paris. Miller arrived in France in 1930 and left in 1939. He struggled with women, money problems, and publishers, but he remained true to his ideal of personal freedom. Though oblivious to the grand political dramas of the time, he had a grander vision: that daily life — especially sex — was the pathway to the sacred.

 

51JfA1ZhSDL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The Gastronomical Me  by M.F.K. Fisher

M. F. K. Fisher is celebrated as a food writer, but the great theme that runs through her 27 books is the art of living. W. H. Auden said of her, “I do not know of anyone in the United States who writes better prose.”

In 1936, she moved to Switzerland, where her complicated love life resulted in divorce from her first husband and marriage to a second, who soon became desperately incapacitated.

In 1939, under the shadow of approaching war, she sees young wives living on ships with lovers while their husbands are in Dachau; she drinks champagne with French diplomats ready to cede France to Hitler; on a train to Milan, she sees an Italian political prisoner commit suicide.

She can be frustratingly oblique and chillingly frank, but she is never boring. And always, she is eating — slowly, voluptuously — something marvelous to share with us.

imagesDays of Our Years by Pierre Van Paassen

This passionate and eloquent autobiography, published in 1939, was a bestseller in the U.S. due to its detailed and deeply humanistic portrayal of world events. Van Paassen was a Dutch-American journalist. Reporting from Mussolini’s Ethiopian campaign, the Spanish Civil War, and occupied France, he raged against capitalist exploitation which led to fascism and inevitably to war. He desperately tried to awaken the world to the coming destruction of the Jews. As war approached, he wrote from Paris: “How do politicians not know about coming war when my concierge and baker do?”

51eivI0mKdL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Paris was Yesterday, 1925 − 39 by Janet Flanner

For an astounding 50 years, Janet Flanner was the New Yorker‘s eyes and ears in Paris, writing under the name Genêt. Ironic, witty and sophisticated, mistress of the mot juste, she covered everything from fashion, theatre, art and society to politics. Her dazzling pieces in this volume range from Josephine Baker to the Munich Accord. More treats on the 1930s can be found in “Janet Flanner’s World: Uncollected Writings”

513woGKBPAL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The Last Time I Saw Paris  by Elliott Paul

Elliott Paul, an American journalist, lived on rue de la Huchette. What begins as an affectionate description of his lively neighbors turns into a anguished portrayal of Paris’s darkest hour. His idealistic young French neighbor is killed in the Spanish Civil War. With the deportation of the Jews under German occupation, despair compels some of the best and bravest of his Parisian neighbors to kill themselves. This powerful book, published in 1942, ends in the anguish of uncertainty,when it still seemed that the Germans would win the war.

 

 

 

 

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top