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"The Anti-Nostalgic Nostalgia for Old Paris": The Invention of Paris reviewed by H-Net

Morgan Buck16 April 2011

Published in April, Aaron Freundschuh reviewed Eric Hazan's accalimed The Invention of Paris (now available in paperback from Verso), calling the book "the anti-nostalgic nostalgia for old Paris":

Social diversity can be an indicator of an area's liveliness, yet Hazan's lament in this connection that "nothing happens anymore on the Left Bank, whereas in my youth we hardly needed to cross the Seine," seems inspired less by history than nostalgia-tinged recollection (p. xi). Elsewhere we are informed that Hazan no longer gets coffee in a favorite haunt on the Place Saint-Sulpice due to the social makeup of its clientele in recent years: "smart tourists and elegant ladies taking a rest ... after doing their shopping in the haute-couture boutiques nearby" (p. x). But for a long time now the Place Saint-Sulpice has known celebrity, as well as steady crowd overflows from the touristy Jardin du Luxembourg, the Boulevard Saint-Germain, and parts in between, where a galaxy of chic hotels and shopping locales beckon the global bourgeoisie. Even leaving aside the accelerated embourgeoisement of this and other Left Bank neighborhoods since the 1990s, the omnipresence of these social types is hardly recent. Indeed, the matter of Hazan's idealized historical Left Bank suggests something paradoxical about the project he has undertaken: to write against Parisian nostalgia from the viewpoint of a Parisian nostalgist.

Visit H-Net to read the review in full.