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Paris to the Moon (Anglais) Broché – 11 septembre 2001

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Not long after we moved to Paris, in the fall of 1995, my wife, Martha, and I saw, in the window of a shop on the rue Saint-Sulpice, a nineteenth-century engraving, done in the manner, though I'm now inclined to think not from the hand, of Daumier. It shows a train on its way from the Right Bank of Paris to the moon. The train has a steam locomotive and six cars, and it is chugging up a pretty steep track. The track is supported on two high, slender spires that seem to be anchored somewhere in the Fifth Arrondissement (you can see the Panthéon in silhouette nearby), and then the track just goes right up and touches the full moon up in the clouds. I suppose the two pillars are stronger than they look. The train is departing at twilight--presumably it's an overnight trip--and among the crowd on the ground below, only a couple of top-hatted bourgeois watch the lunar express go on its way with any interest, much less wonder. Everybody else in the crowd of thirteen or so people on the platform, mostly moms and dads and kids, are running around and making conversation and comforting children and buying tickets for the next trip and doing all the things people still do on station platforms in Paris. The device on the ticket window, like the title of the cartoon, reads: "A Railroad: From Paris to the Moon."

The cartoon is, in part, a satire on the stock market of the time and on railway share manipulations. ("Industry," the caption begins, "knows no more obstacles.") But the image cast its spell on us, at least, because it seemed to represent two notions, or romances, that had made us want to leave New York and come to Paris in the first place. One was the old nineteenth-century vision of Paris as the naturally modern place, the place where the future was going to happen as surely as it would happen in New York. If a train were going to run to the moon, that train would originate from the Gare du Nord, with Parisian kids getting worn out while they waited.

But the image represented another, more intense association, and that is the idea that there is, for some Americans anyway, a direct path between the sublunary city and a celestial state. Americans, Henry James wrote, "are too apt to think that Paris is the celestial city," and even if we don't quite think that, some of us do think of it as the place where tickets are sold for the train to get you there. (Ben Franklin thought this, and so did Gertrude Stein, and so did Henry Miller. It's a roomy idea.) If this notion is pretty obviously unreal, and even hair-raisingly naive, it has at least the excuse of not being original. When they die, Wilde wrote, all good Americans go to Paris. Some of us have always tried to get there early and beat the crowds.

I've wanted to live in Paris since I was eight. I had a lot of pictures of the place in my head and even a Parisian object, what I suppose I'd have to call an icon, in my bedroom. Sometime in the mid-sixties my mother, who has a flair for the odd, ready-made present, found--I suppose in an Air France office in Philadelphia--a life-size cardboard three-dimensional cutout of a Parisian policeman. He had on a blue uniform and red kepi and blue cape, and he wore a handlebar mustache and a smile. (The smile suggests how much Art, or at any rate Air France, improves on Life, or at any rate on Paris policemen.)

My younger brother and I called the policeman Pierre, and he kept watch over our room, which also had Beatle posters and a blindingly, numbingly, excruciatingly bright red shag rug. (I had been allowed to choose the color from a choice of swatches, but I have an inability to generalize and have always made bad, overbright guesses on curtains and carpets and, as it turned out, the shape of future events.) Although we had never gone anywhere interesting but New York, my older sister had already, on the basis of deep, illicit late-night reading of Jane Austen and Mary Poppins, claimed London, and I had been given Paris, partly as a consolation prize, partly because it interested me. (New York, I think, was an open city, to be divided between us, like Danzig. Our four younger brothers and sisters were given lesser principalities. We actually expected them to live in Philadelphia.)

My first images of Paris had come from the book adaptation of The Red Balloon, the wonderful Albert Lamorisse movie about a small boy in the Parisian neighborhood of Menilmontant who gets a magic, slightly overeager balloon, which follows him everywhere and is at last destroyed by evil boys with rocks. Curiously, it was neither a cozy nor a charming landscape. The Parisian grown-ups all treated Pascal, the boy, with a severity bordering on outright cruelty: His mother tosses the balloon right out of the Haussmannian apartment; the bus conductor shakes his head and finger and refuses to allow the balloon on the tram; the principal of the school locks him in a shed for bringing the balloon to class. The only genuine pleasure I recall that he finds in this unsmiling and rainy universe is when he leaves the balloon outside a tempting-looking bakery and goes in to buy a cake. The insouciance with which he does it--cake as a right, not a pleasure--impressed me a lot. A scowling gray universe relieved by pastry: This was my first impression of Paris, and of them all, it was not the farthest from the truth. To this set of images were added, soon after, the overbright streets of the Madeline books, covered with vines and the little girls neat in their rows, and black and white pictures of men in suits walking through the Palais Royale, taken from a Cartier-Bresson book on the coffee table.

Pierre, though, being made of cardboard, got pretty beat up, sharing a room with two young boys, or maybe he was just both smaller and more fragile than I recall. In any case, one summer evening my parents, in a completely atypical display of hygienic decisiveness, decided that he was too beat up to keep and that it was time for him to pass away, and they put him out on the Philadelphia street for the trashman to take away.

I wept all night. He would sit out with the trash cans and would not be there in the morning. (A little later I read about Captain Dreyfus and his degradation, and the two uniformed and mustachioed figures got mixed up, so perhaps he had been sent to supply intimations of the other, darker side of French life. They were certainly there to be intimated.) What made me sad just then was the new knowledge that things changed, and there was nothing you could do about it. In a way, that was a Parisian emotion too.

Revue de presse

Advance praise for Paris to the Moon

"Adam Gopnik's avid intelligence and nimble pen found subjects to love in Paris and in the growth of his small American family there. A conscientious, scrupulously savvy American husband and father meets contemporary France, and fireworks result, lighting up not just the Eiffel Tower."
--John Updike

"Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon abounds in the sensuous delights of the city--the magical carousel in the Luxembourg Gardens, the tomato dessert at Arpège, even the exquisite awfulness of the new state library. But the even greater joys of this exquisite memoir are timeless and even placeless--the excitement of the journey, the confusion of an outsider, and, most of all, the love of a family."
--Jeffrey Toobin

"The chronicle of an American writer's lifelong infatuation with Paris is also an extended meditation--in turn hilarious and deeply moving--on the threat of globalization, the art of parenting, and the civilizing intimacy of family life. Whether he's writing about the singularity of the Papon trial, the glory of bistro cuisine, the wacky idiosyncrasies of French kindergartens, or the vexing bureaucracy of Parisian health clubs, Gopnik's insights are infused with a formidable cultural intelligence, and his prose is as pellucid as that of any essayist. A brilliant, exhilarating book."
--Francine du Plessix Gray
        
        
"Adam Gopnik is a dazzling talent--hilarious, winning, and deft--but the surprise of Paris to the Moon is its quiet, moral intelligence. This book begins as journalism and ends up as literature."
--Malcolm Gladwell

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Not long after we moved to Paris, in the fall of 1995, my wife, Martha, and I saw, in the window of a shop on the rue Saint-Sulpice, a nineteenth-century engraving, done in the manner, though I'm now inclined to think not from the hand, of Daumier. Lire la première page
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A lovely book which combined reflection and description of,life in Paris with a young child. As an Irish woman living in France, the culture of French life hit more than a few bells making me, at times, smile and at others yelp in exasperated recognition.

Adam Gopnik and his family live at the decidedly comfortable and cultured end of the spectrum and perhaps, given how many of us have a picture of Paris as an intellectual city, this makes it a particularly apposite book to read. Add to that the charm of walking in the Luxembourg gardens with a little boy and riding on its carousel. What could be more charming!
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Voici un livre que j'ai découvert par hasard qui m'a vraiment séduit et que je recommande à mes proches. La passion avec laquelle l'auteur décrit Paris vous fait redécouvrir ou aimer de nouveau cette ville extraordinaire ...
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Par Un client le 4 juillet 2002
Format: Broché
Du jardin du Luxembourg aux petites brasseries parisiennes, le lecteur a souvent l’illusion du réel. Adam Gopnik, malgré un point de vue parfois très américain, soulève les même interrogations que tout un chacun dans un pays étranger. Il se voit confronté à ces petits soucis domestiques, ces petits quipropos culturels, qui font de l’expatriation une expérience unique et tellement enrichissante.
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9966fb70) étoiles sur 5 211 commentaires
33 internautes sur 34 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9969c708) étoiles sur 5 Great Writing; Very Perceptive Observations 29 janvier 2001
Par Kanaschwiiz - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Mr. Gopnik has a talent for moving from the personal to the universal and back... making the connection between his son's park playing habits and the inevitable French political corruption scandal du jour. As a Canadian living in France, what I appreciate most about this book is not just the great writing but the fact that Mr. Gopnik recognizes the sometimes infuriating things about "the French" (insofar as one can generalize) but loves them and their country (as much as they do) anyway. The only small weakness: it seems at times to be a collection of articles because he repeats himself (about the best walk in Paris, for example) a number of times on a number of things... maybe a bit more cohesive editing would solve this very minor flaw to a very great book.
25 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9969c75c) étoiles sur 5 I'll take "Paris to the Moon"! 5 juillet 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Comparing Adam Gopnik's "Paris to the Moon" to any of Peter Mayle's books is like comparing Carl Jung to Deepak Chopra. Chopra offers "quick fixes" for an ailing soul, but Jung's intellectual and deeply insightful approach to what ails mankind has the power to transform the soul. Likewise, both Gopnik and Mayle write about France and French culture, but, unlike Mayle, Adam Gopnik offers a truly critical assessment of the culture in which he immersed himself. Gopnik's insights transcend Mayle's casual observations, and his candor obviously makes some people uncomfortable (truth often does). Compared to Gopnik, Mayle is "light reading": It's certainly enjoyable but doesn't have much substance; it offers little or no "food for thought." Gopnik's writing reflects his background (journalism/teaching), just as Mayle's reflects his (advertising). I personally prefer Gopnik's intellectualizing of la vie parisienne to Mayle's selling of Provence by the pound!
125 internautes sur 143 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9969c930) étoiles sur 5 A French Feast 21 octobre 2000
Par readernyc - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Adam Gopnik has provided me with some of my best laughs and best reads over the years in the New Yorker. His piece on the "Last Psychoanalysis" is my all time favorite essay. So, I ripped into this book and was delighted, engaged, dazzled by his skills to convey a country I adore but now realize I know only superficially. Hats off Gopnik for his: talent, this great travel book, and most of all: his ability to capture France in all its intricate nuances. This is an author not only to relish but to trust.
74 internautes sur 84 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9969c834) étoiles sur 5 Paris like you've never seen it before 23 octobre 2000
Par Jussi Bjorling - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
After reading this book, I want to do two things: 1) go to Paris, and 2) have lunch with Adam Gopnik. A surreal blend of travel literature, history, and even philosophy, _From Paris to the Moon_ will almost certainly contain anecdotes and observations unknown to even the most diehard Parisian-trivia buffs. For those of us who haven't been studying the city for a lifetime, Gopnik provides an accessible overview of his subject before delving into the nitty-gritty. Beautifully written and tremendously engaging.
30 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9969cf84) étoiles sur 5 Moony Over Paris 23 décembre 2000
Par Paul F. Starrs - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Just as the world is divided into New York City haters and lovers, so are we divided over Paris. Adam Gopnik, his wife, and young son Luke decamped to Paris in 1995 to let Luke grow up, if only for a few years, in a great city besides New York, and this is their story. It's a family tale, or a variety of them, and the theme is always the City itself. And why not? If ever there was a city that deserves its own chroniclers, it's Paris. Gopnik does it right: He's got a genius for turning the personal into the general, and for bringing to fruition some terrific insights into French character (at least, where that intersects with Parisian character). "Trouble at the Tower" is without equal -- maybe only O'Henry, in his New York stories, could pull off something equal. If you loathe Paris, fine, buy another book. But if you're educable and recognize that cities and their residents can demonstrate the best and most contradictory sides of human society, then dig in. -- Incidentally, now back in New York, Gopnik's work remains the best reason to subscribe to the New Yorker; his essay on The Map of The City (November 2000) was a treasure. My only regret? That some of the favorite pieces he wrote in Paris weren't included (viz: The Virtual Bishop...).
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