‘Rich and funny’ Julian Barnes, Guardian
‘Poirier’s hugely enjoyable, quick-witted and richly anecdotal book is magnifique’ The Times
A captivating portrait of those who lived, loved, fought, played and flourished in Paris between 1940 and 1950 and whose intellectual and artistic output still influences us today.
After the horrors of the Second World War, Paris was the place where the world’s most original voices of the time came – among them Norman Mailer, Miles Davis, Simone de Beauvoir, James Baldwin, Juliette Greco, Alberto Giacometti, Saul Bellow and Arthur Koestler. Fuelled by the elation of the Liberation, these pioneers hoped to find an alternative to the Capitalist and Communist models for life, art and politics – a Third Way.
Agnes Poirier transports us to a time when Paris was at the heart of all that was new and brave and controversial, skilfully weaving together a collage of images and destinies.
Briskly plotted, gossip-fuelled, character-driven cultural history ... Poirier's hugely enjoyable, quick-witted and richly anecdotal book is magnifique' * The Times * A tour de force ... weaves together so many people, ideas, trends, occurrences, and above all Parisian places, into a tapestry of fascinations - a distillation of the essence of an amazing time ... the best of its kind I have ever read -- A.C. Grayling A brilliant recapturing of a fascinating era. Artistic and intellectual Paris comes vividly and memorably alive in these pages. A tremendous achievement -- William Boyd Weighty thought and earthy behaviour are the twin engines behind Agnes Poirier's briskly entertaining ride through France's most mouvemonte decade * Sunday Times * Poirier does not shy away from exposing the joy and pain of experimental living or from exploring with sensitivity the moral ambiguity of living through the Occupation ... compulsive reading -- Anne Sebba, author of 'Les Parisiennes: Resistance, Collaboration, and the Women of Paris Under Nazi Occupation' A book which combines rich and subtle intellectual history with all the pleasures of a great soap opera. Its gallery of characters is wonderfully realised - but the most wonderfully realised of all is Paris herself -- Tom Holland A remarkably exhilarating read ... Left Bank is an enchanting account of how these exceptionally talented and original people not merely endured these harsh years but also found pleasure, and even a kind of joy, in creating small pockets of private utopia ... Poirier is acute and witty on the love-hate relationship between Paris and America -- Kevin Jackson * Literary Review * Left Bank reads as an erudite and deeply satisfying gossip column, in which each story is more incredible than the last * New Republic * Left Bank moves scene to scene, cafe to cafe, tracing the affiliations and intrigues of a group of writers, philosophers, artists and curators ... [Poirier] manages to create the feeling we're peeking into the windows of her subjects, looking at buildings that still stand, at inhabitants long gone * International New York Times * A detailed chronicle of a decade alive with intellectual and political ferment. London-based journalist Poirier (Touche: A French Woman's Take on the English, 1997), a panel member of the BBC's weekly program Dateline London, offers a gossipy, well-informed cultural history of her native Paris, beginning in 1938, with Europe on the brink of war, and ending in 1949, with the Marshall Plan in effect to help the continent recover ... An animated, abundantly populated history of dramatic times * Kirkus * Poirier does not miss a trick in her lively accounts of the intense discussions and adulterous liaisons that centred on the Cafe de Flore or the nearby nightclub Le Tabou; but her real achievement is to contextualise these politically and culturally ... Entertaining and well-written story -- Andrew Lycett * Spectator * One of the most entertaining of the year -- Books of the Year * Telegraph * A vivid account of the lives of the bed-hopping intellectuals and artists of Paris * The Times * [Paris] is undeniably a mythic sort of town, and almost no period is richer in myths than the decade that Agnes Poirier charts in her excellent Left Bank...It has a huge cast, any of whom could be the subject of a book on their own, but Poirier marshals them deftly***** * Daily Telegraph * Amid the tensions of the phoney war, Agnes Poirier deftly establishes what will become the central argument of her well-researched and compelling book: the fraught connection between action and intellectual engagement ... Left Bank might not quite come complete with peeling wallpaper and a dubious lavabo, but in conjuring the atmosphere of this extraordinary period, it is surely the next best thing ... Poirier navigates the philosophical and political intricacies of her subjects' work, their intellectual feuds and alliances, with panache * Times Literary Supplement * Poirier's unbounded energy, particularly in research, brings forth an entertaining, stimulating and, at times, insightful book ... Left Bank is gloriously vibrant * Sunday Herald * With mastery of her sources, Agnes Poirier provides an engrossing synthesis of a great capital city's cultural and intellectual life in this crucial decade. It is acute, often brilliant and beautifully written. When liberal values on both sides of the Atlantic are being threatened by a recrudescence of xenophobia and nationalism, Left Bank could hardly be more timely and vital -- Oliver Kamm Delightful * Economist * A captivating portrait of those who lived, loved, fought, played and flourished in the City of Light and whose intellectual and artistic output still influences today ... The cast of characters is long, varied and colourful * Irish Examiner * This is in many ways a very familiar story with a well-known cast of characters, but [Poirier] tells it in vivid and highly enjoyable detail ... Poirier's is an extremely busy book, recounted at a dizzying pace and packed with gossipy tales of sex, drugs, high art and low life ... Poirier makes her case with wit, sympathy and elegance -- Andrew Hussey * New Statesman * Even correcting for nostalgia, Paris in the fifties seems to have been a time when giants really did walk the earth ... Gossipy without being prurient, Poirier is good at tracing the links between the work and the ever-shifting sexual liaisons of her subjects * Daily Telegraph *
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