After having submitted most of my papers, I am taking full advantage of living in a city like Paris. Lately more than ever do I catch myself taking the great variety of options for granted. The longer you live in a place, the less you perceive it from the perspective of a tourist. This can have its benefits – you start to develop habits – but it can be problematic when you lose your drive to try out new things. I was so busy reaching my academic goals that I forgot what was around me. The exploration thereof, at last, is becoming an end in itself. In a wider sense, then, this blog post is about appreciation.
Art & Parks
I spent the past few weeks either relaxing in parks or going to museums. Even though I am not particularly against winter per se, let’s say I do prefer spring and summer. I always find it remarkable how much a city changes once the sun comes out. Whenever the sun hid, I went to museums, most recently to the Musée Picasso. His art becomes less enjoyable if you remember that Picasso was abusive and many of his works are downright misogynistic. Once again, it made me wonder if – or to what extent – art can be separated from the artist.
Paperboy & Les Grands Voisins
On the weekends, I tried out numerous brunch spots, one of them being Paperboy, in one of my favourite neighbourhoods of Paris, the 11th. I admire the concept of the place. It feels homely, and the logo is something else. They use it on crewnecks, mugs, tote bags, hoodies, stickers, and the list goes on. Somehow they managed to make Paperboy a brand. From what I heard it is a project initiated by a group of friends in my age, and I love that. It requires a lot of courage to set up a business, especially when you are young. I also went to a place called Les Grands Voisins in the 14th, which is an old hospital turned into a space for artists, cafés, book and clothing stores, exhibitions, a bar, a small restaurant… you name it. It feels like an urban oasis and it is one of the realest and least pretentious places I have been to in Paris.
The Red Wheelbarrow
Lastly, I found my new favourite bookshop, The Red Wheelbarrow. It is in the 6th arrondissement and owned by an American lady who is obsessed with books. An avid reader, she has a lot of recommendations. We talked a lot about literature and the importance of independent bookshops. She said she felt that, despite digitalisation, people would still appreciate the feeling of holding actual books in their hands, of browsing, of comparing different editions. This is why she thought her shop, in a way, reacted to what the people wanted. I agreed but went a step further and claimed that independent bookshops – as Zadie Smith has justly pointed out – gave the people what they didn’t even know they wanted. Once people enter The Red Wheelbarrow, they are exposed to numerous books they had no idea they were interested in.
When I lived in Dublin, I almost felt obliged to read a James Joyce novel. I knew I would find Ulysses and its 783 pages rather off-putting, which is why I decided to give Dubliners a shot. I liked it but wasn’t necessarily eager to read another James Joyce novel. In The Red Wheelbarrow, I saw – without exaggeration – one of the most beautiful book covers I had ever seen. The attention to detail was unreal. The book in question was A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I am not going to lie: it would not have ended up in my backpack if the American lady had not urged me to read it. Why am I telling this story? Because I loved Portrait. I learned a lot about identity; the way in which it is constructed and how it changes depending on the circumstances. It was something that I, at that point in time, needed to read. This is why all The Red Wheelbarrows of the world are so important.
It took me a while to appreciate Paris but now I finally do; a lot. Soon, my first year at Sciences Po will come to an end. In my next blog post, I will talk about expectations, hopes and challenges concerning the new chapter in my life: my masters in London.
APRIL 2019 | Loë Guthmann