Left Bank
An incandescent group portrait of the midcentury artists and thinkers whose lives, loves, collaborations, and passions were forged against the wartime destruction and postwar rebirth of ParisIn this fascinating tour of a celebrated city during one of its most trying, significant, and ultimately triumphant eras, Agnes Poirier unspools the stories of the poets, writers, painters, and philosophers whose lives collided to extraordinary effect between 1940 and 1950. She gives us the human drama behind some of the most celebrated works of the 20th century, from Richard Wright’s Native Son, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, and James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and Saul Bellow's Augie March, along with the origin stories of now legendary movements, from Existentialism to the Theatre of the Absurd, New Journalism, bebop, and French feminism.We follow Arthur Koestler and Norman Mailer as young men, peek inside Picasso’s studio, and trail the twists of Camus's Sartre's, and Beauvoir’s epic love stories. We witness the births and deaths of newspapers and literary journals and peer through keyholes to see the first kisses and last nights of many ill-advised bedfellows. At every turn, Poirier deftly hones in on the most compelling and colorful history, without undermining the crucial significance of the era. She brings to life the flawed, visionary Parisians who fell in love and out of it, who infuriated and inspired one another, all while reconfiguring the world's political, intellectual, and creative landscapes. With its balance of clear-eyed historical narrative and irresistible anecdotal charm, Left Bank transports readers to a Paris teeming with passion, drama, and life.

Left Bank Details

TitleLeft Bank
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 13th, 2018
PublisherHenry Holt and Compnay
ISBN-139781627790246
Rating
GenreHistory, Art, Nonfiction, Cultural, France, European History

Left Bank Review

  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    There's no shortage of literature written about the famous Lost Generation of writers who populated Paris in the 1920's, and I have read my share. I was totally unfamiliar with the dynamic society of writers who made Paris their home between 1940 and 1950. This book filled that void in my knowledge about the intellectual society of Paris during that period.The book unfolds around the circle of Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Camus but the allure of the city and its cafe culture attracted jazz mu There's no shortage of literature written about the famous Lost Generation of writers who populated Paris in the 1920's, and I have read my share. I was totally unfamiliar with the dynamic society of writers who made Paris their home between 1940 and 1950. This book filled that void in my knowledge about the intellectual society of Paris during that period.The book unfolds around the circle of Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Camus but the allure of the city and its cafe culture attracted jazz musicians, aspiring journalists, playwrights, and every garden variety of intellectual that your mind could possibly conjure. It was easy to occasionally get bogged down by the day-t0-day domestic situations of these free-spirited individuals who seemed so intent to make their life an art form of its own, but the reward for this reader is an understanding of the striking differences between the life of these "public intellectuals" in Europe and the corresponding lifestyle of writers in America. The "ah-ha moment" for me was the statement from Richard Wright (author of NATIVE SON) that in New York he was recognized as "a successful Black novelist" and in Paris he was simply acknowledged as a writer. The sense that the society he moved in was color-blind was enough for him to move permanently to France .I was also intrigued by the divergent reactions of de Beauvoir, Sarte and Camus to experiences lecturing/touring America. For the most part, they were individuals with no particular interest in money (nor a specific lack of it), but after the deprivations of Europe during WW2, at least one of them was dismayed by the American exuberance for possessions --- it was just not something these very liberal individualists could identify with. But, the issue that will stay with me for some time is de Beauvoir's puzzlement that American's "don't talk about ideas" (or anything of substance) --- conversation "in society" was pleasant and meaningless and she was totally baffled by this. It was fascinating to be absorbed into a society of intellectuals whose primary "product" was their lifestyle. In some instances the writers' acknowledged that they were so busy "connecting" with each other and discussing their sexual and social politics that they didn't have time to write and it was then necessary to accept the fact that they were no longer writers, but "public intellectuals." I honestly can't think of a group of people in this country that we would classify as such now.Netgalley provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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  • Aaron Finestone
    January 1, 1970
    French anglophile journalist Agnes Poirier, presents a delicious peak into the intellectual life of Paris from about 1940 to 1950. Left Bank (Henry & Company) centers on Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, their loves, their students, their writing, and their circle of French, British and Americans friends who lived and created on the Left Bank in Paris.Poirier tells us about the cafes, theaters, restaurants, streets and hotels frequented by the existentialist set. Her book is a travelo French anglophile journalist Agnes Poirier, presents a delicious peak into the intellectual life of Paris from about 1940 to 1950. Left Bank (Henry & Company) centers on Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, their loves, their students, their writing, and their circle of French, British and Americans friends who lived and created on the Left Bank in Paris.Poirier tells us about the cafes, theaters, restaurants, streets and hotels frequented by the existentialist set. Her book is a travelogue, especially useful for the reader who has never been to Paris.Most of all, Left Bank is about lifestyle, and what lifestyles did her characters lead!Poirier is an accomplished name dropper. She acquaints the reader with cultural figures whose names I had often heard, but whose lives I knew nothing about.As a secondary theme, Poirier tells the political story of those times, and how the main characters edge away from the Communist Party. The book concludes with the triumph of the Marshall Plan over cultural Communism in France.
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  • Tena
    January 1, 1970
    I won an Advance Readers Copy in a GOODREADS giveaway sponsored by Henry Holt.
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