Author(s): Graham Robb
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. 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. An aristocratic 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, Baron Haussmann, the real-life Mimi of La Bohème, Proust, Charles de Gaulle (who is suspected of having faked an assassination attempt on himself in Notre Dame)-these and many more make up Robb's cast of characters. The result is a resonant, intimate history with the power of a great novel.
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" "
Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. His most recent book, The Discovery of France, won both the Duff Cooper and Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prizes in 2008. He lives in Cumbria.