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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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Format: Broché Achat vérifié
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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Format: Format Kindle
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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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.8 étoiles sur 5 221 commentaires
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Fall in love with Paris reading this book 24 août 2015
Par J. Hassler - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I love reading books that tell me a story in a chapter. This is my second year vacationing in Paris and it is books like this that make that time delightful.Reading each chapter is just like taking one little piece of chocolate and letting it melt on your tongue. Each chapter is delicious delicious and worthy of savoring. Reading this book was my preparation for my first trip back to Paris in 15 years last year. I felt completely ready for the journey so much so that I'm returning this year. If you love Paris it's a book you should read
5.0 étoiles sur 5 That Beautiful Parisian "La Vie Ordinaire" through the Eyes of an American Family 3 avril 2016
Par Sharp Seller/Book Cafe' - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
One of most concise, non-iconoclastic; yet, poignant chronicles of an American (and most importantly, his family along with him) living all facets of an expatriate. Funny, realistic, and exciting-a work of pure writing. The style of his writing takes each reader along on a unique and less traveled road revealing "la vie ordinaire" of Parisian life. From the idiomatic experience of shopping for appliances to the hilarity of an incongruous health club, the book is a fast favorite of both Francophones or Francophile alike. I've enjoyed it so much, I own a paperback and a hardcover - always searching for other copies to give as gifts to mon amis who truly will appreciate each experience within.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Into the French Brain 19 octobre 2015
Par Los Osos Girl - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
I had a very hard time getting thru this book, even though I just returned from Paris and knew many of the places the author referred to. Definitely not a page turner. It did however give me insight into the "French" way of thinking (the political delays, the strikes, etc). From that perspective worth reading. I also appreciated his style of writing. Los Osos Girl
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Loved this book on Paris 29 mars 2016
Par T. Turner - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
What a great book! Adam is a fantastic and witty writer. The books is thoughtful, engaging, poetic, humorous, historic, and informative all at the same time. I love Paris and I know that when I return I'll think of this book and my experience will be enhanced for it. If you love Paris, have been, or are thinking of going you should read this book.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Heart warming. 14 décembre 2007
Par Hugh Claffey - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This is collection of essays written by Gopnik, while he was posted to Paris, by the New Yorker Magazine, between 1995 and 2000. Gopnik characterises the French as overly intellectual, valuing wit over humour, valuing theory over practicality; however in the initial essays I thought Gopnik was committing these errors himself. There is an essay about the error messages of French fax machines, which takes the messages as indicative of the French attitude to the world. I found this essay amusing, but overly witty rather than funny, and plausible, if requiring a suspension of disbelief. In fact I thought that Gopnik might fill the essay's with methaphors for France or the French or Europeans, and I considered giving it up about the Fax essay. In fact, I took up `The Looming Tower', which I found to be unutterably sad, and found that I returned periodically to Gopnik for some reassurance.
The essay's themselves revolved around the author's domestic life in Paris, his difficulties getting an apartment, taking his son to the park, taking his son swimming, cooking. He intersperses these with observations on French and American culture. I found the later essays more personal, less analytical, but the writing was just as inviting and gifted as at first.
In fact there are two classic essays about Gopnik's efforts, along with a group of concerned citizens, to save their favourite restaurant - the Brasserie Balzac - from being taken over by a (French) conglomerate personified by its owner Jean-Paul Bucher. The manoeuvrings of the plotters, the reaction of the restaurant staff, and the final outwitting of all the above by Bucher are a joy to read.
Reading the book, at this remove and along with the Looming Tower, make me think about the fact that Gopnik's essays, witty, amusing, domestic were written at the same time as the threat from Al Queda was emerging, but being underestimated. It made me yearn somewhat for the nineties, when all that seemed to bother us was the personal troubles of the US president. Gopnik returned to New York for the millennium and I believe has a new(ish) book of essays coming out about his time there. I will definitely read them.
While I started out being put off by the whimsical content of the essays, in the end I became glad that Western society can create a space for such a talented writer to exercise his craft on such, apparently, slight topics. In reality of course, and Gopnik quotes Maupassant on this, the very familiarity of the tale leads to its being hugely personal and important.
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