Paris Book Review: Flaneuse: Women Walk the City


From regular contributor Betty Guernsey:

The verb “flâner” – a particularly French concept roughly meaning to wander the streets, and its corresponding noun “flâneur” roughly meaning one who peers behind facades, investigates dark corners, and penetrates into secret courtyards – are also both words attaching themselves to the city of Paris.

In her new book “Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London”, American-born writer Lauren Elkin explains why “flâneurs” were historically always men, and how as women emancipated, how they too gained the right to walk the streets (and travel) on their own.

As examples she chooses French writer George Sand, French filmmaker Agnès Varda, and French artist Sophie Calle, among others, whose lives and careers were not merely shaped but influenced by this hard-won freedom to be themselves in public places.

I would personally have enjoyed the book more had I not felt too much digression, often at great length, on histories and observations largely unrelated to the subjects at hand. That said, my suspicions are that author Elkin (now a bona fide Parisienne) is herself the ultimate flâneuse, in the punk tutu.

Merci beaucoup, Betty!

Readers — are you a flâneuse (or flâneur)?

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